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Posts Tagged ‘PaaS

I’ve been recently involved helping a new European start-up just launched a new Platform-as-a-Service capable of running and automatically scaling any Java application. Here’s a quick write-up on why I think Jelastic is really onto something, a service to try and a company to watch.

Say, you’ve got a great Java application which you want to put on the internet and make it available to the world. Believe it or not, up until today, what sounds like a trivial task simply could not be done. You effectively had to choose between lack of scalability, necessity to manually set up and maintain the whole software stack, requirement to re-write your code to conform to a particular framework (and get locked into it thereafter), or a combination of the above.

Traditional hosting simply leased you a server and had you set it up including the web server and Java stack – effectively making you spend hours and hours doing pure operational work instead of producing next biggest and coolest services. And obviously getting you confined to whatever servers you rented – so when you need to scale up due to being mentioned on Slashdot you were out of luck.

First generation Infrastructure-as-a-Service clouds (IaaS) like Amazon or Rackspace made server provisioning a simple programmatic call. This made scalability a little easier (at least you did not have to wait days or weeks to get more or less servers). However, all they did was effectively give you a bunch of (often overpriced) virtual machines leaving it to you to set them up, configure them, patch them. To make things worse, scalability was not free either. For these providers, more resources meant more virtual machines. Which in turn meant, that your application had to be designed to be able to run on multiple machines in parallel, and most likely using storage and instance coordination mechanisms specific to this platform. Thus, you were almost getting the worst of both worlds: limited scalability, extra operations tasks, high fees, and vendor lock-in.

Early Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions like Google App Engine, Force.com, Windows Azure, and VMware CloudFoundry offered a trade-off of taking away the operational tasks of setting up and managing the virtual machines by requiring you to write your applications specifically for the platform – thus putting you at the maximum lock-in ever.

Jelastic – a new start-up which just launched its beta at Jelastic.com is aiming to learn from predecessors and give you the best of all worlds:

  • Easy to deploy and manage – like earlier PaaS systems, Jelastic automatically sets up, configures and maintains the software stack that you need (such as Tomcat server, MySQL database, load balancer, static content cache, and so on) – all you need is add your application on top.
  • Runs any Java application – with Jelastic there are no requirements to specifically adapt your code, simply upload the package and if it runs, for example, on standard Tomcat server (or for that matter JBoss, GlassFish, or Jetty) with MySQL (MariaDB, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, CouchDB) – it will run in Jelastic as is. This means painless deployments, zero learning curve, and most importantly zero platform lock in.
  • Automated scaling – most amazingly, Jelastic manages to scale your application up and down depending on the load it gets. As your application becomes popular and its use intensifies, Jelastic transparently gives it more memory and processing power.

See this quick video with Jelastic overview:

And a set of videos demonstrating the actual Java application deployment, autoscaling, and URL mapping.

Or even better, take your application and give it a try at Jelastic.com.

With the recent changes in the leadership of one of Microsoft’s key business units – Server and Tools – from Bob Muglia to Satya Nadella one can’t help speculating what this means for the business unit and how it will affect Microsoft’s cloud strategy, specifically Windows Azure – Microsoft’s platform as a service.

Here’s my uneducated guess based on the assumption that given a new task humans tend to use the same approaches which worked well for them last time, and that Satya definitely got this post as a recognition for successfully rolling out Bing and transforming Microsoft’s search business from nothing to a competitor really frustrating Google.

Here’s what I think Satya will bring to Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business:

  • More focus on online (Azure) than on Windows Server: Bob Muglia made Windows Server business a success, this was his kid, while Windows Azure (one could argue) was kind of a step-child, imposed on him and added to his business during a re-org. Satya will likely feel much different: for last few years he has been “living in the cloud” leading Bing, and Steve Ballmer very explicitly made lack of cloud focus the reason for changing the business unit leadership.
  • Compete against the market leader: Bing clearly was developed to compete against Google. I guess this means that now Azure development will become aggressively anti-Amazon.
  • Acquisitions and partnerships: so far Azure has really been a ground-up effort by Microsoft engineers, Bing team tried to buy Yahoo, and when this did not work hired a lot of top talent from Yahoo and finally essentially acquired its search and ad business. Satya was directly involved in these efforts. So who is a runner up in IaaS business who Microsoft could acquire to get more visible in that space? Rackspace? Savvis? Although, one could argue that search share was more relevant in search advertising business in which the big get bigger (why even bother advertising with small players?) and this advantage of scale is not as relevant in hosting, so acquisitions might not be as effective. We will see…
  • Not sure if Azure appliance emphasis will persist: Azure appliance made a lot of sense under old leadership. Server and Tools Business knows how to sell to enterprises, so let’s turn Azure into an appliance which we can sell to our existing biggest partners and customers. Will Satya feel the same? I don’t think Bing folks were paying much attention to Microsoft’s search appliance strategy leaving this all to SharePoint/FAST and concentrating on pure cloud play…

There were speculations after Ray Ozzie left that Azure might get de-emphasized – after all Azure was one of Ray’s pet projects. With Satya’s appointment, I would say that we should expect Azure to only gain priority at Microsoft. We’ll see how applicable will Bing experience be for making Windows Azure a top player in the cloud platform space.

“APaaS: A Step to a ‘Killer App’ for Cloud Computing?” is a great report by Yefim V. Natis and Eric Knipp published by Gartner last week.

Yefim and Eric, as it seems to me, managed to articulate the very essence of what makes Cloud Computing so disruptive:

“Easy to learn and use application development environment, with runtime deployment of virtually unlimited scalability and reliability, at small or midsize business (SMB) technology prices” sounds too good to be true. However, it is one of the promises of the state-of-the-art cloud-computing environment.

As you can see from the title is on application-platform-as-a-service (APaaS). However, I found it very true to my area – systems management software. We are currently working on turning some of our software products (such as Recovery Manager for AD) into subscription-based services, and all these points are extremely applicable:

  • Easy to learn and use – no need to set up and maintain all the storage, reporting, and management infrastructure as you normally would,
  • With runtime deployment of virtually unlimited scalability and reliability – absolutely: you will never run out of tapes or disk space, or have your backup storage fail, and you get your backups stored off-site without having to pay someone to come and ship your tapes to another location,
  • At small or midsize business (SMB) technology prices – economy of scale and subscription-based pay-as-you-go model make this really affordable to everyone.

The report goes into details on these points, as well as provides an overview of the challenges ahead. Overall, a very good read regardless of whether you are planning to provide/use APaaS or any other cloud technology.

Get (or buy for $495) it here.

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The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer Jelastic or anyone else for that matter. All trademarks acknowledged.

© 2008-2012 Dmitry Sotnikov

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