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Platform-as-service offerings blurring lines between cloud packages

Brandon Butler | May 8, 2013
Cloud-based infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is for renting storage and compute capacity from a service provider, delivered via an Internet connection. Similarly, software as a service (SaaS) is for accessing applications that are hosted in the cloud.

Many of these developer types require some sort of cloud platform that incorporates aspects of not just a pure IaaS, SaaS or PaaS, hence, the lines between these cloud options are converging. The application developers are creating opportunities for vendors to differentiate their services to appeal to the niches.

And it's not just the big-name brands of the industry, like Amazon Web Services and making these moves to moderate their offerings closer to PaaS-like features.

Blue Box, a managed hosting and IaaS cloud provider that owns and operates its own data centers, has recently rolled out what could be thought of as IaaS+ service. Blue Box provides the infrastructure, and the customers bring their apps. It's targeted specifically at customers who have built customized applications on PaaS platforms like Heroku, Engine Yard, CloudBees or other public PaaS providers.

Pure-play PaaS vendors fall short in a number of areas, says Blue Box CEO Jesse Proudman. PaaS vendors tout their ability for developers to not worry about the underlying infrastructure their applications require. But Proudman says the more customers use a PaaS, the more control they're going to want over their infrastructure. Blue Box's IaaS+ model gives customers the ability to build their apps in the cloud on a PaaS, then migrate it to an infrastructure service provider, where they can dictate the configuration of the infrastructure. "Once you get to a large enough scale, the value prop of PaaS begins to fall apart," he says.

Microsoft's cloud service, Azure, combines elements of IaaS and PaaS too. Originally started as an application development platform, Microsoft then rolled out IaaS features like virtual machine and storage on demand. Now, Azure has both IaaS and PaaS functionality.

PaaS vendors would likely dispute claims that a PaaS alone cannot handle the needs of an application. But, the moves by IaaS and SaaS vendors to diversity their offerings to include more PaaS-like offerings reflect the evolving use cases by developers looking for that functionality.


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