Cloud Platform-as-a-Service startup DotCloud has raised $10 million from Benchmark Capital and Trinity Ventures, further evidence that openness will be critical if PaaS is to become the future of cloud computing. As I reported earlier this month when the
New YorkSan Francisco-based company raised $800,000 from a group of angel investors, DotCloud’s service resembles a hybrid PaaS-SaaS environment, like a mix between Heroku and Amazon’s Elastic BeanStalk and CloudFormation offerings in that it combines push-of-a-button deployment of application-stack components with the ability to dive into the underlying infrastructure if necessary. This might be the new definition of openness in a post-cloud world.
Discussions about the proper role of open-source technologies in cloud computing have rarely resulted in unanimous agreement, but the consensus seems to be that although open source is a great foundation for building clouds, it might not have a place in the resulting offerings. Cloud computing — PaaS, especially — being centered on ideas of standardization and abstraction, might defeat the purpose of giving developers access to the code to personalize as they wish, which is why openness in PaaS offerings might best be defined as giving users choice and some ability to, as DotCloud puts it, “pop the hood” and monitor what’s going on at the infrastructure level.
DotCloud is relatively unique in the cloud computing market, because it combines these features in an already-available publicly hosted offering, but all signs point to lots of competition. Multi-language PaaS is already relatively popular (sub req’d) — including within Windows Azure and proposed offerings from VMware and HP — and even some single-language providers are open to the possibility of expanding. Likewise, Amazon has already latched on to the concept of streamlined configuration of selected components while maintaining infrastructural control for developers, and has acknowledged that Elastic Beanstalk will expand to multiple languages over time. Makara, the PaaS startup that Red Hat recently bought, has been flying under the radar somewhat, but it also provides a PaaS product that combines choice and manageability.
This early into the evolutionary process of PaaS, critics’ core complaints of language lock-in and infrastructural opacity are already being addressed, making PaaS look far more appealing to the broad community of developers. If it’s not leading the way toward this end, DotCloud is certainly at the forefront, which makes that $10 million look like a wise investment.