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Platform as a Service predictions: What will 2012 bring?

Analysts, developers and vendors make their predictions for the Platform as a Service market; it boomed in 2011 and more is expected in 2012.

If 2011 was the year that Platform as a Service (PaaS) became a buzzword, then 2012 could mean any number of things for the nascent computing trend.

There are plenty of expectations about features and add-ons, questions to consider about trends and following of the vendor horse race. The interest in PaaS that was diligently created throughout 2011 isn’t going away, but analysts and experts are predicting more than just buzz in 2012.

Some are talking about 2012 being the year that PaaS gains legitimacy while others think that the market has seen too much PaaS too soon and will naturally retract and consolidate. One analyst sees acquisitions in the future while another sees the formation of a federated cloud ecosystem. And, it would not be a discussion about PaaS if there was not some talk about security.

Here is a list of some selected predictions from various analysts, PaaS experts and observers.

Legitimizing of the concept
Isaac Roth, “PaaS master” at Red Hat in Raleigh, N.C., believes one of the first things that will happen in the coming year is the legitimization of Platform as a Service. Roth compared the situation with what happened with Netflix, which helped legitimize the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) concept by making it public that an IaaS provider was handling its operation.

“I think we’re going to see that in Platform as a Service too, services that [users] can relate to that can say, ‘Hey, we run on a PaaS,’ ” Roth said.

Continued adoption of Platform as a Service by developers will also help the concept gain traction.

“It used to be that PaaS providers would differentiate themselves based on features or whether they supported a certain language or framework,” said Erica Brescia, CEO of BitRock, based in Sevilla, Spain. “Now they have basically achieved parity in terms of features, and what remains to be seen is which of those platforms is going to acquire the biggest developer base.”

Integration and acquisitions
In the Java PaaS market, many of the vendors are separated by the different parts of the software lifecycle, according to Paul Burns, president of Fort Collins, Colo.-based Neovise. Burns believes that vendors will start to integrate other aspects of the software lifecycle into PaaS in 2012, either through innovation or acquisition.

He also believes that trends that began in 2011 -- multi-language support and an end to lock-in -- will continue in 2012.

If the ecosystem in each individual platform changes, then the ecosystem of the PaaS market may as well, according to independent researcher Krishnan Subramanian. He sees federated clouds becoming a big deal in 2012, with the cloud computing market becoming similar to the wireless telecommunications market, setting up a federated cloud ecosystem. Subramanian describes a federated cloud ecosystem as having many providers, heterogeneous platforms, portability and no lock-in.

Reza Rahman, an independent Java developer also foresees an end to lock-in.

“IBM and all these guys have made a big effort over the years to minimize lock-in for sure, and I think they are going to continue to do that,” he said.

Too much, too soon
Brescia sees consolidation in the future.

“There has been an explosion of PaaS solutions that is not sustainable,” he said. “Many of them will disappear or become niche players as developers adopt a few mainstream ones.”

Subramanian also sees consolidation coming, but believes that “consolidation is as bad for the end users.”

Security, security, security
If there’s one problem still plaguing cloud adoption, it’s security. For Rahman, improved security is on top of the PaaS wish list.

“Data security would be the biggest concern. If any of these systems get hacked, it magnifies the threat,” Rahman said. “If you are a malicious hacker and you are targeting a PaaS vendor, all you have to do is break into their system once and lo and behold, you find a whole bunch of stuff.”

He lamented that security in the cloud is “a lot harder problem to solve” than some of the other concerns about the technology.

Year of the apps
Brescia notes that while people get excited about cloud infrastructure, platforms, frameworks and the technology of the cloud, they sometimes forget what the point of it all is -- applications.

“We are seeing tremendous adoption of our application 'stacks' on top of [Amazon] EC2, to the point that we now have more BitNami servers running on top of Amazon than most midsize hosting companies out there. We expect this trend to continue and accelerate.”

Subramanian agrees.

“In 2012, I expect more and more on the application side, like some interesting analytics applications will come out,” he said. “I also expect someone to crack the problem of moving data from one cloud to another, which is a problem because of the latency issues.”

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