Are the Stars Aligning for an Amazon PaaS Offering?

The Platform as a Service, or PaaS, segment of the cloud computing market is hot and getting hotter. Just look at the ado VMware and Salesforce.com created with their VMforce announcement a couple weeks ago. Or the attention Heroku is attracting with its Ruby-centric service -– 60,000 applications and $15 million in VC investment are nothing to scoff at. Could Amazon be the next cloud player to enter this market?

As I discuss in my weekly column for GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d) VMforce and Heroku are public versions of what, up until now, has been a largely internal phenomenon — “adaptive PaaS.” They allow developers to launch applications without writing to the cloud platform; instead, the platform adapts the code to take advantage of the platform’s capabilities. Both VMforce and Heroku currently are limited in scope — VMforce within the Salesforce.com environment and Heroku to Ruby developers — but VMware is planning an expanded PaaS presence, and Heroku intends to open its service to new languages.

The popularity of Amazon Web Services (AWS), meanwhile, continues to grow. This week alone, Netflix expanded its EC2 usage to include some of the video service’s most important features and the White House migrated the Recovery.gov web site entirely to EC2. Investment firm research shows AWS crushing competitors’ offerings in terms of adoption, as do analysts looking solely at website hosting. AWS certainly doesn’t have a market share problem at present, but as IaaS resources become commoditized, value-added, “adaptive” PaaS offerings — and even value-added IaaS offerings — could start eating into its lead.

So, my question is this: If AWS really will be simplifying management within the coming weeks, what are the chances it does so via a PaaS offering of sorts? AWS has the tools to build a holistic PaaS offering, the economies of scale to make it profitable, and the SDKs to cater to specific set of developers. If it does so, the cloud computing discussion will take on an entirely different tenor as PaaS providers scramble to differentiate themselves from AWS in this area, too.

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Photo courtesy Flickr user Dominic’s Pics photostream

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