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In IaaS and PaaS Convergence, It’s PaaS That Should Lead

Operations staffs are having a difficult time trying to deliver a functioning IaaS to end users with a self-service interface

Recent commentaries by cloud industry luminaries Reuven Cohen & Krishnan Subramanian address key issues related to relative importance and potential longevity of an independent Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). In his commentary, Reuven poses, "Do consumers really care about the difference between IaaS and PaaS?" The answer to this question is most likely, no, but that doesn't eliminate the need for distinction, it merely is a matter of how best to deliver the value of cloud computing to users.

In his commentary, Krishnan does an excellent job of exploring one way to classify PaaS as either service or container orchestration. However, in some ways, the distinction introduces more confusion. For example, his use of Docker illustrates how convergence of IaaS and PaaS actually makes sense for the industry and, thus, diminishes his key point that there's value in the cloud application layer existing as a distinct layer within the cloud stack.

Ultimately, I don't believe either piece truly makes the case for the importance of independence between IaaS and PaaS, which has to do with the ability to optimize for economics of the cloud. Consider a converged IaaS/PaaS environment. IaaS should be optimized for the management and delivery of virtual application infrastructure, e.g. networking, storage and compute. In contrast, PaaS requires optimization for scalability and availability of applications. Moreover, each application requires optimization in different areas, for example, some require high number of storage I/O per second while others, such as Hadoop, rely on the ability to "spin up" and reclaim thousands of virtual servers.

Operations staffs are having a difficult enough time just trying to deliver a functioning IaaS to their end users with a self-service interface. Expecting that IaaS to also support every type of application that application development might ever think of is unreasonable and would drive deeper in operations-related engineering, which is one of the drivers for the high cost of IT. PaaS provides the right level of distribution of responsibility within the enterprise. A well-designed and operated PaaS should provide the appropriate services on which a PaaS could be layered. In turn, the PaaS could then extend the features of IaaS to ensure appropriate support for storage and network performance to operate the application as part of the deployment.

Indeed, if convergence is to occur in the industry, it is PaaS that should expose IaaS functionality and not the other way around. Assuming advancement of software-defined data center (SDDC) architecture, the PaaS should be able to program and configure the necessary infrastructure required for the deployment and management of an application over time. Hence, the application package will become the primary descriptor for the required infrastructure required to operate the application and the SDDC will provision as requested or deny the request for resources. Thus, rendering invalid the need for a self-service portal for provisioning virtual servers and, instead, relying on the cloud application architecture to consume resources as needed.

More Stories By JP Morgenthal

Mr. Morgenthal has over 25 years of experience in Information Technology spanning multiple disciplines including software engineering, architecture, marketing, sales, consulting and executive management. He has specializations in multiple industry verticals including: banking, brokerage, retail, supply chain management, healthcare and Federal. Mr. Morgenthal also has technical specializations, and is considered a thought leader, in integration, enterprise architecture, service oriented architecture and cloud computing. In the role of Director, Mr. Morgenthal is responsible for furthering Perficient’s efforts in cloud computing with its customers through services development, sales force enablement and training, strategic account support and development of programs to drive cloud computing opportunities. Prior to his role as Director, Mr. Morgenthal was a Cloud Ranger with EMCC’s Cloud & Virtual Data Center service line. In that role, Mr. Morgenthal was instrumental in driving consulting opportunities for EMC around cloud and IT transformation, facilitating workshops and EBCs, and developing statements of work. Prior to EMC, Mr. Morgenthal designed, developed and operated one of the first Platform-as-a-Service for the supply-chain, logistics, multi-channel retail management, loyalty program management and payment cards. Mr. Morgenthal is the author of four trade publications covering topics of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Application Integration, Enterprise Information Integration, and Distributed Systems Management. He has also published over one-hundred articles and is a frequent blogger and has spoken at many of the leading conferences covering these technologies. He has a Bachelor and Masters Degrees in Computer Science from Hofstra University.