September 17, 2012
In the seeming ever increasing rush towards so-called polyglot PaaS, or PaaS-providers supporting every language under the sun, there has been a single lone voice that has consistently been saying polyglot is a failed methodology. New York based Apprenda makes a .NET PaaS and has long said that only through laser focus on building one specific PaaS for one specific language will enterprises really see the benefits that PaaS promises. Apprenda has somewhat been on the back foot as higher-profile vendors like Heroku and the different CloudFoundry ecosystem players have gained mindshare.
Meanwhile Apprenda has been focused on delivering a highly functional .NET PaaS for its large enterprise customers – this focus on private PaaS has its benefits, after-all enterprises actually pay for stuff, but it’s not a great way to build awareness in the marketplace.
Apprenda is making a move to counter this factor by announcing the availability of ApprendaCloud, a free version of its private PaaS stack that, most importantly, is hosted in the public cloud. This isn’t quite as counter-intuitive as it seems. Apprenda has been fighting hard to get developer adoption, a couple of years ago they released their Apprenda Express product which was a downloadable PaaS product that developers could install themselves. However as Apprenda CEO Sinclair Schuller tells it, the vast difference between downloads and installs (roughly half of those downloading the product actually installed it) speaks to the barriers to entry that an installed product brings.
The discussion Apprenda hopes to encourage by providing this public cloud hosted product is one between developers and the IT departments of large enterprises. As Schuller rightly points out, some NYC based banks have upwards of 10000 developers working inside them – for these sorts of organizations public PaaS isn’t going to get real traction in the short term and hence private PaaS is the best option for them. By offering a free cloud-based product, Apprenda hopes to get developers using the product, and engaged with the IT organization to mandate its deployment internally as a private PaaS. When applications on ApprendaCloud are market ready, and more importantly the organization itself is satisfied that PaaS delivers value, users can download an on-premises install of Apprenda’s private PaaS. The Apprenda platform can then be consumed as a downloadable installer, virtual machine images, licensed product or PaaS service.
Schuller is right – private PaaS is a massive opportunity and one where significant value can be created. Large enterprises have massive development teams that would do well by leveraging the benefits that PaaS can bring. He’s also right that within the more traditional of enterprises, a PaaS deeply focused on a language like .NET makes sense. The logic goes that if you’re a .NET shop, you’re going to have a perception that a pure-play .NET offering is going to be a better fit for you than an offering supporting multiple languages.
The polyglot versus best of breed debate however is something of a red-herring – developers will use a solution that works, sometimes best of breed will fit that bill, sometimes polyglot will. In the journey to increased PaaS adoption however the key challenge is overcoming the significant hurdles to adoption – if private PaaS is a big offering, finding ways that both encourages developers to use the stuff, and meets the needs of corporate IT is a difficult balancing act.
ApprendaCloud is one answer to this problem and will help to at least build developer awareness and usage of Apprenda specifically. I suspect though that some of the bigger barriers to PaaS adoption lie in areas beyond the realm of the PaaS itself – cultural issues, the need for central management and monitoring and the maturity of individual platforms are also big barriers to greater adoption.
While it’s easy to say that ApprendaCloud is simply a knee jerk response to others providing an easy hosted PaaS product, it’s also a way for Apprenda to build some awareness and adoption – that’s good for Apprenda, good for the PaaS landscape generally and ultimately good for customers.