2011: Year of PaaS?

All leading enterprise software vendors, as well as large cloud specialists, will introduce new platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings this year, making 2011 the year of PaaS, according to research specialists Gartner.

These leading vendors are expected to deliver new or strongly expanded PaaS service offerings and cloud-enabled application infrastructure products. PaaS is a common reference to the layer of cloud technology architecture that contains all application infrastructure services, which are also known as “middleware” in other contexts.

PaaS is the middle layer of the software stack “in the cloud.” It is the technology that intermediates between the underlying system infrastructure (operating systems, networks, virtualization, storage, etc.) and overlaying application software. The technology services that are part of a full-scope PaaS include functionality of application containers, application development tools, database management systems, integration brokers, portals, business process management and many others — all offered as a service.

“By the end of 2011, the battle for leadership in PaaS and the key PaaS segments will engulf the software industry,” said Yefim Natis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Early consolidation of specialized PaaS offerings into PaaS suites will also be evident. New vendors will enter the market through acquisitions or in-house development. Users can expect a wave of innovation and hype. It will be harder to find a consistent message, standards or clear winning vendors.”

Gartner believes that during the next five years, the adoption of PaaS in most midsize and large organizations will not lead to a wholesale transition to cloud computing. Instead, it will be an extension of the use patterns of on-premises application infrastructures to hybrid computing models where on-premises application infrastructures and PaaS will coexist, interoperate and integrate.

“The cloud computing era is just beginning, and the prevailing patterns, standards and best practices of cloud software engineering have not yet been established. This represents an opportunity for new software providers to build a leading presence in the software solutions market,” said Mr. Natis. “It is also a major technical and business challenge to the established software vendors — to retain their leadership by extending into the new space without undermining their hard-earned strength in the dominant on-premises computing market.”

More information is available in the report “PaaS Road Map: A Continent Emerging” which can be found on Gartner’s website. This research is part of the Special Report on PaaS, which can be found here.

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Kevin Tea is a journalist and marketing communications professional who has worked for some of the leading blue chip companies in the UK and Europe. In the 1990s he became interested in how emerging Internet-based technologies could change the way that people worked and became an administrator on the Telework Europa Forum on CompuServe. With other colleagues he took part in a four year European Commission sponsored project to look at the way that the Internet could benefit remote communities. His blog is a resource for SMEs who want to use cloud computing and Web 2.0 technologies.