PaaS Startups Unite as DotCloud Buys Duostack

Hot Platform-as-a-Service startup DotCloud is acquiring fellow PaaS startup Duostack in an attempt to gird itself for a fight that’s likely to leave some casualties in the years to come. With PaaS startups proliferating and large vendors such as VMware (s vmw), Red Hat (s rht), Microsoft (s msft) and (s crm) already in the game, DotCloud and Duostack are making a smart move to ensure their mutual survival while combining their innovative capabilities.

I discussed the acquisition with DotCloud Founder and CEO Solomon Hykes, who explained to me that because his company and Duostack overlap almost completely, it was in both companies’ best interests to unite under one banner. Although PaaS is still anyone’s game as much of the world is still figuring out lower-level cloud computing models such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Hykes said there’s little value in DotCloud and Duostack butting heads while going after the same developer base. With all that competition for developers, splitting the pot between themselves could hurt both companies in the long run.

It’s a similar move to what we saw in December, when the newly minted Java-based PaaS CloudBees bought the competitive Stax Networks in order to integrate their technologies into the best-possible Java (s orcl) platform. That move was inspired in large part by Red Hat buying PaaS startup Makara a few weeks earlier and instantly becoming the biggest player in public Java PaaS.

Of course, things have only heated up since then. Among other happenings, VMware launched its Cloud Foundry PaaS, which is similar in scope to DotCloud; Red Hat has productized its Makara technology as OpenShift; and fellow startup PHP Fog quickly moved from beta to general availability with a slew of new features. Thus the unification of DotCloud and Duostack.

As Hykes said, it’s a rare opportunity to execute on the shared vision of providing a “choice of stacks without compromising on the user experience,” before anyone really establishes a dominant position. Both platforms focus on supporting a variety of languages, frameworks and databases, and DotCloud adds a touch of IaaS to the mix by letting developers lift the covers to monitor performance, track changes and perform other operational tasks.

Just four months into a private beta, Hykes said DotCloud is already seeing a lot of developer love, including from an increasing number of software vendors and consulting firms. Primarily, he said, customers are using the platform to test out new applications on an entirely new type of platform. In March, DotCloud announced an angel funding round of $800,000, followed by a $10 million Series A round.

Despite all the competition, though, Hykes made a fair point that all PaaS offerings, even from large vendors, essentially are startups trying to disrupt the established application-platform market. “If anything, it’s a net gain for everyone when a new solution brings something to the cloud camp,” Hykes said.

According to Hykes, DotCloud will support the current DuoStack platform for the time being, although the ultimate effect will be an integration of the best features of Duostack into the DotCloud platform. For DotCloud users, the immediate benefit will be support for the MongoDB NoSQL database, which Duostack supports but which is not among the myriad application-stack components that DotCloud had previously supported.

All the activity around PaaS underscores the popular proposition that it’s the next big thing in application platforms and will be a big driver of cloud computing adoption, but the attention also raises expectations of what might be expected from such a new set of technologies. We’ll be discussing potential upcoming potholes for PaaS with some of the field’s pioneers at Structure 2011, which takes places June 22-23 in San Francisco.

Image courtesy of Flickr user CarbonNYC.