What is this thing called Platform as a Service?

The textbook definition from SearchCloudComputing.com and Tech Target as written by Margaret Rouse in August 2010 is as follows:

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a way to rent hardware, operating systems, storage and network capacity over the Internet. The service delivery model allows the customer to rent virtualized servers and associated services for running existing applications or developing and testing new ones.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is an outgrowth of Software as a Service (SaaS), a software distribution model in which hosted software applications are made available to customers over the Internet. PaaS has several advantages for developers. With PaaS, operating system features can be changed and upgraded frequently. Geographically distributed development teams can work together on software development projects. Services can be obtained from diverse sources that cross international boundaries. Initial and ongoing costs can be reduced by the use of infrastructure services from a single vendor rather than maintaining multiple hardware facilities that often perform duplicate functions or suffer from incompatibility problems. Overall expenses can also be minimized by unification of programming development efforts.

On the downside, PaaS involves some risk of “lock-in” if offerings require proprietary service interfaces or development languages. Another potential pitfall is that the flexibility of offerings may not meet the needs of some users whose requirements rapidly evolve.

Incredibly, there seems to be a lack of valuable discussions on PaaS that are recent or relevant.  When I did a Google search I was amazed at how little there was.

Let’s break down the points in the definition and examine them more closely.

  1. With PaaS, operating system features can be changed and upgraded frequently.

This would seem to be music to any CIO or IT Manager’s ears.  In today’s world of technology who would want to have their feet in cement.  Although operating systems don’t appear overnight it would make sense to leave all options open for your IT infrastructure.  I would think the key word would be “upgraded” – that’s where innovation and technology intersect.

2. Geographically distributed development teams can work together on software development projects.

Exactly.  If you’re in an enterprise or ISV environment then there are significant, real savings that can be made.

They would include:

  • People-power – real savings in costs related to personnel size.
  • Time – probably the most important element for enterprises or enterprise clients.  If you were an ISV or hosting company then the same could be said for any size client.  Small and medium size clients could have the need for quick service.
  • Hardware – no one would want spend extra capital dollars to supply dispersed offices/data centers.
  • Synergy – hard to measure “intangible” from company to company but you know when it’s there and when it’s not there.  This could be a real hidden powerful force if it’s coming through from your personnel.
  • Customization – two things come to mind here that could be at play.  First, local (meaning in-country) needs that can be best met and understood by local or nearby resources.  Second, an opportunity to “crowd source” your own personnel resources and come up with a truly customer-centric solution.
  1. Services can be obtained from diverse sources that cross international boundaries.

Pretty much what I outlined in #2 with geographically dispersed teams.  One of the biggest elements here would be the savings in time by continual operations around the clock.  However, I have a friend who worked for a software company and his development resource was in Eastern Europe.  He could never seem to make contact with the development manager and it cost him his job.  So, management has a duty to stay on top of those areas to make sure that performance and cohesion don’t suffer.

  1. Initial and ongoing costs can be reduced by the use of infrastructure services from a single vendor rather than maintaining multiple hardware facilities that often perform duplicate functions or suffer from incompatibility problems.

I’ve already touched on this but the statement is pretty self-explanatory.  Why duplicate hardware especially when you’re looking at capital expense budgets and “IT as a profit center” logic.  Then there’s that compatibility issue – what’s new today in the tech world can be old tomorrow.  Beta or VHS?

5. Overall expenses can also be minimized by unification of programming development efforts.

It would seem very true and logical.  Again, we could go back to the points about geographically dispersed teams, across borders, and time zones.  However, think of management like the stage coach driver.  It’s their job to pull or loosen the reins as needed to make it all work.

Now let’s look at those two items mentioned on the “downside” of PaaS.

A.) PaaS involves some risk of “lock-in” if offerings require proprietary service interfaces or development languages.

That’s very true.  XaaS is like a long-term engagement without the ring ceremony.  There is a contract between the client and the provider with the Service Level Agreement (SLA) spelled out.  It denotes not only what must be done for the client but what happens when and if the service provider doesn’t deliver.  However, proof is often in the eyes of the beholder.  That’s’ why reputation and references from a service provider are an essential for a prospective client.

B.) Another potential pitfall is that the flexibility of offerings may not meet the needs of some users whose requirements rapidly evolve.

So now we’ve past an engagement moved on to the marriage ceremony.  It’s time for a true heart-to-heart about needs vs. service.  If you’re a client whose development needs move that rapidly then maybe you need to take a second look at PaaS before committing.  Maybe you need to segment you entire IT operation and development process to see where the great divide between internal resources and PaaS can take place.

I think if you follow these guidelines and think diligently about PaaS before jumping in the water you will be well advised.

Lastly, someone had asked me from a previous blog if Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and PaaS were the same.  I think they might be cousins but not the same.  Perhaps the biggest difference would be the use of virtualization and application delivery.  This would be a great spot to ask for some feedback from you.

Please make sure to copy your response directly into my blog Comments section at:

http://ImpalBizBuzz.wordpress.com

Regards – Dom

Dominic J. Frúges

@DomFruges

DomFruges@gmail.com

What is this thing called Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

Last time I wrote a blog about Cloud Computing and now I wanted to follow up with one of its components: IaaS.

A simple definition – a provision model in which an organization outsources the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers, and networking components.  The service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running, and maintaining it.  The client typically pays on a per-use basis.

Characteristics and Components of IaaS:

  • Utility computing service and billing model
  • Automation of administrative tasks
  • Dynamic scaling
  • Desktop virtualization
  • Policy-based services
  • Internet connectivity

So, let’s take a look back at the three main elements that are inherent in cloud computing and see if there’s a match.

  1. Sold on demand: IaaS – per-use basis
  2. Elastic: IaaS – dynamic scaling
  3. Service fully managed by the provider: IaaS – the service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running, and maintaining it.

www.SearchCloudComputing.com recently published a white paper from CIO-Customs Solutions Group and NTT America, “IT Infrastructure at Your Service”.

NTT America http://www.us.ntt.net/ NTT Communications provides consultancy, architecture, security and cloud services to optimize the information and communications technology (ICT) environments of enterprises.

One particular point noted is:

“…While IT capabilities are arguably the lifeline of most companies, IT departments are also under increasing pressure to achieve more with reduced capital and constrained operating budgets for infrastructure facilities, technology acquisition and refresh, and staffing. Adding to the challenge of sustaining operations with tighter budgets is the fact that IT departments are being asked simultaneously to support more services and more users—with the expectation of higher performance and, in some instances, with formal internal SLAs accompanying internal IT charge-backs to the lines of business…”

So, the internal corporate battle has begun.  In today’s tough business economy no department gets a pass.  Now, for the IT Department, it is shape up, perform, and produce.  Conversely, corporate executives are looking at who’s using the most resources and why.  They now are holding specific departments, organizations, or even projects/programs accountable for costs.

One of the major concerns of IT executives is security and control.  Security can be handled by maintaining critical data in-house on private servers.  However, IaaS providers can also work smoothly with corporate IT providers after both sides gain confidence and trust.

Here are some components of an IaaS strategy and implementation plan:

  • Corporate IT Strategy:
    • What’s the overall IT strategy for the firm?
    • How large is the IT function of the firm?
    • What’s the global corporate footprint?
    • How fast are technology and applications changing in the corporate industry?
    • How safe is our data and what is our disaster recovery plan?
    • What IT equipment do we currently use and what are our expected needs over the next 12 – 18 – 24 – 36 months?
    • What is the status of our corporate cash flow situation and receivables?
  • Corporate IaaS Considerations and Strategy:
    • Can we get “mind-share” from our existing IT staff to consider IaaS?
    • What ramifications would IaaS have on our existing IT operations?
    • What parts of our existing IT infrastructure would we consider as a potential outsource to a IaaS provider?
    • What global or regional limitations, regulations, impairments, or considerations would have to factor into our IaaS strategy?
    • What implications does IaaS have in our industry and current operations?
      • Has one of our competitors already implemented IaaS?
    • How do we protect our data in an IaaS environment?
      • What kind of Service Level Agreement can we get from an IaaS provider?
    • What implications and factors must be considered in the cash flow role for internal IT expenses & equipment vs. IaaS monthly payments?
      • How volatile is our industry capital structure?
      • What global events could affect the cost of raising capital to cover internal IT expenditures?
    • What would be a “cut-over plan” and how long would implementation take?
  • IaaS Provider Considerations:
    • What is their expertise area?
    • Who are some current clients?
    • What is their global footprint?
    • What does their financial capital picture look like?
    • Where are their operations centers?
      • Multi-lingual staff?
      • Staff expertise and credentials
      • Where will our corporate data be held?
    • What equipment vendors do they use?
    • What is their disaster recovery plan like?

I’m sure there are many considerations that I’ve missed.  Why not comment and give our readers your experience and expertise.

NOTE: All comments are welcome but I always want comments to contribute to an ongoing conversation.  Please copy and paste you comment back to my original blog:

http://ImpalBizbuzz.wordpress.com

Regards – Dom

Dominic J. Frúges

@DomFruges

DomFruges@gmail.com

 

What is this thing called “Cloud”?

Everyone has been hearing about something called “Cloud” or its’ formal name, “Cloud Computing”.  So, I wanted to create this blog post to help explain Cloud, its’ parts, and answer some questions.  Before I go on at this point I would advise those who are heavy into IT or telecom IT to perhaps stop reading.  My goal here is not to present a technical white paper or review.  It’s really to provide information to people who work at companies – small, mid-size, or large – where cloud computing is happening. Perhaps you’re seeing it as a consumer just downloading applications (apps) from your favorite web store.

What is Cloud Computing? 

Here is the text book definition provided by www.TechTarget.com at http://whatis.techtarget.com/

Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The name cloud computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that’s often used to represent the Internet in flowcharts and diagrams.

A cloud service has three distinct characteristics that differentiate it from traditional hosting. It is sold on demand, typically by the minute or the hour; it is elastic — a user can have as much or as little of a service as they want at any given time; and the service is fully managed by the provider (the consumer needs nothing but a personal computer and Internet access). Significant innovations in virtualization and distributed computing, as well as improved access to high-speed Internet and a weak economy, have accelerated interest in cloud computing.

So, the big thing to remember here is that cloud computing revolves around a hosted service concept.  Additionally, you may hear the development portion of cloud is based on a “multi-tenant” architecture.  To explain that in simple terms just think of a house.  If it’s a one family house then that sole family pays for all the related housing costs.  Everything.  Additionally, much like a house there are those hidden costs that just pop up over the course of owning the house.  How about cleaning the gutters?  New hot water heater?

What cloud had done is simply take the apartment house concept and applied it to the computing industry.  Now in that scenario there are six or eight families sharing the costs for the house.  Hence the term “multi-tenant”. As opposed to a per license-based software application, many companies are inherently paying the development costs associated with perhaps a software application. The development service provider is then able to break out the development costs across a number of clients. So instead of one company having to pay $500,000 for development there are perhaps 10 or more companies paying $50,000 or far less for the same development costs. This concept has also expanded to other types of services like security, storage, infrastructure, and platforms.

Additionally, let’s get back to those hidden costs with our house example.  Typically, in a software example 90% of the associated costs occur after implementation. They are the “unseen” costs associated with IT staffing, software upgrades, server upgrades, and maintenance just to name a few.

What cloud computing does is to create a different model:

  • Lower costs
  • Reduced time to deploy new functionality
  • Access functionality (not currently available or generated by the business IT operation)
    • Offer the opportunity to provide specific software (or other cloud services) to just a few employees when needed for specific tasks and when needed to accomplish those tasks.
  • Free up resources
    • Typically, this would be IT staff, money, space, or any number of items.

In short, the one great benefit of cloud computing is that it lets client companies concentrate on their core business, not on becoming or staffing an IT resource.

The three major segments of cloud computing (although this is a fast evolving space) are:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas)
    • Amazon Web Services
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
    • SalesForce.com
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
    • Many hundreds of software applications coming into our technology space almost daily.

If you would like to comment on this blog post I’d ask that you please copy your post to my original blog site so we can keep the conversation going:

https://impalbizbuzz.wordpress.com/

Regards – Dom

Dominic J. Frúges

@DomFruges

DomFruges@gmail.com