At last week’s Structure conference, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels used his “State of the Cloud” keynote to highlight how cloud computing is evolving beyond its traditional IaaS, PaaS and SaaS layers. “I’m moving away from this picture of a stack with infrastructure on the bottom and platform on top,” he explained, “It’s outdated.”
I’m not so sure it’s outdated yet, but it’s getting there. I expressed a similar vision in a report published last week on GigaOM Pro, titled “A field guide to cloud computing: current trends, future opportunities” (subscription required). In my analysis of the current status and future trends for IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, cloud storage and private clouds, a recurring theme is the merging of these layers: Ultimately, I foresee a future where integration and innovation result in cloud services that unify the experience of building, running and managing applications.
We’re already seeing this today to a degree, especially among PaaS offerings. Services such as Elastic Beanstalk, DotCloud and Heroku are integrating infrastructure-level visibility to complement their inherent abstraction, while others, such as PHP Fog and Windows Azure are making it easy to deploy specific application types and to access unique data stores.
Yesterday, for example, Google detailed a project that hopes to simplify the process of building solar-permitting applications to run atop its App Engine service. In an attempt to aid a national effort to boost solar-energy deployments by simplifying the permit process, the Google App Engine team developed code examples for creating cloud-hosted permit applications.
The scope of this project is very limited, but that’s the point. The goal of all these efforts is to reach beyond just being an application platform and to enable specialization. In the future, the best cloud services will be those that give developers whatever they need to accomplish their goals, whether that’s optimization for very specific application types, access to specific data or connections to other applications. Infrastructure, platforms and software are just part the service, not the service itself.
We’re a ways off from this, but we’re getting there. To learn more about the trends within the specific cloud layers that are leading to this end, read my entire report here (subscription required).