Image Credit: SitepointAfter a hiatus, I am going to touch the “PaaS Is The Future Of Cloud Services” series again. When I wrote the post on Rightscale’s support for Windows, I linked to the Rightscale blog post where they had highlighted the difficulties with Windows instances. Picking up on the Rightscale post, William Vambenepe, a cloud pundit, argued that Microsoft should focus on PaaS instead of IaaS. He even compared it to countries like Singapore where they overcame the lack of natural resources with business innovation.

From ancient Mesopotamia to, more recently, Holland, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore and Korea, the success of many societies has been in part credited to their lack of natural resources. The theory being that it motivated them to rely on human capital, commerce and innovation rather than resource extraction. This approach eventually put them ahead of their better-endowed neighbors.
A similar dynamic may well propel Microsoft ahead in PaaS (Platform as a Service): IaaS with Windows is so painful that it may force Microsoft to focus on PaaS. The motivation is strong to “go up the stack” that the alternative is to cultivate the arid land of Windows-based IaaS.
I completely agree with William Vambenepe’s arguments. I support his argument for not just the difficulties he and Rightscale had highlighted in their respective posts but also because I, like many other in the Clouderati, strongly believe that PaaS is the future of cloud computing. There is not much of a value add on the infrastructure layer and some of the innovations that could happen at the infrastructure level can be absorbed as companies focus on the PaaS level of the stack. Moreover, the idea behind cloud computing is to remove the complexity for the developers and let them focus on what they do best. If this idea is valid, PaaS is a better way to remove the complexity for the developers than IaaS and running a platform stack on top of it.
In fact, Microsoft’s initial soundbites gave me hope that they are more focussed on PaaS than the IaaS part of the stack. However, they changed tunes somewhere in between owing it to “customer demand”. What is needed here is a mental shift on the part of developers and others. They should stop thinking in terms of servers and virtual machines and start thinking in terms of how they can put their application code on top of platform services and not worry about anything below it. Microsoft, with its influence on developer community, can change this thinking if they focus on PaaS layer instead of infrastructure layer. 
Though this is not directly related to the content of this post, I cannot resist linking to a great post by Alistair Croll about how we cling on to metaphors and miss out important things. 
Our online lives are full of metaphor. Our files live in folders and trashcans. Our inboxes are full of messages we’re carbon copied on. Even the ubiquitous QWERTY keyboard was designed to make mechanical typewriters jam less often, rather than for typing efficiency.
Metaphors help us to understand and adopt new things. They’re a bridge between the familiar and the strange.
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So while much of cloud computing’s success today comes from the simple metaphors we’ve used to describe it, we have to avoid being trapped by those metaphors. EC2 is not AWS; clouds are not machines. It’s the surrounding ecosystem that matters, and we ignore it at our peril
It is a great post and I strongly urge everyone interested in cloud computing to read it. It is the same argument I want to make here. In our familiarity with servers and virtual machines, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Platform Services offers greater simplicity and helps users save time, money and other resources. It is time for developers to think beyond the finite chunks called servers and virtual machines and start thinking in terms of seemingly infinite “platform compute resources”. I am pretty sure Nick Carr will be smiling somewhere if he read this statement. What do you think?
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Krishnan Subramanian

Krish dons several avatars including entrepreneur in exile, analyst cum researcher, technology evangelist, blogger, ex-physicist, social/political commentator, etc.. My main focus is research and analysis on various high impact topics in the fields of Open Source, Cloud Computing and the interface between them. I also evangelize Open Source and Cloud Computing in various media outlets, blogs and other public forums. I offer strategic advise to both Cloud Computing and Open Source providers and, also, help other companies take advantage of Open Source and Cloud Computing. In my opinion, Open Source commoditized software and Cloud Computing commoditized computing resources. A combination of these two developments offers a strong competitive advantage to companies of all sizes and shapes. Due to various factors, including fear, the adoption of both Open Source and Cloud Computing are relatively slow in the business sector. So, I take it upon myself to clear any confusion in this regard and educate, enrich and advise users/customers to take advantage of the benefits offered by these technologies. I am also a managing partner in two consulting companies based in India. I blog about Open Source topics at http://open.krishworld.com and Cloud Computing related topics at http://www.cloudave.com.

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