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Gartner: Platform-as-a-Service Gaining Traction

Application building is moving to the cloud and will come into its own as a major category this year. That's the latest forecast out of Gartner. The IT consulting company recently researched this lesser discussed cloud segment, called "platform-as-a-service," or PaaS. Gartner predicted that several large vendors will deliver new or expanded PaaS offerings throughout the rest of the year.

The company is positioning PaaS as the layer of technology that operates between the system infrastructure ingredients--such as operating systems, networks, virtualization, and storage--and the application layer. This middle tier includes a wide set of services in the Gartner scenario: application containers, development tools, database management systems, integration brokers, portals, business process management workflow, and others. In PaaS, these services will be offered online and on demand.

This transition to the cloud will be fraught with confusion and opportunity, as vendors vie to hold onto and gain market share, said Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst Yefim Natis, who recently co-authored the report, "PaaS Road Map: A Continent Emerging."

"By the end of 2011, the battle for leadership in PaaS and the key PaaS segments will engulf the software industry," he warned. "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."

He expressed belief that over time narrowly focused PaaS offerings will consolidate to a few major application infrastructure service suites, leading to comprehensive, full-scale PaaS offerings.

"During the next two years, the fragmented, specialized PaaS offerings will begin to consolidate into suites of services targeting the prevailing use patterns for PaaS," Natis said. "Making use of such preintegrated, targeted suites will be a more attractive proposition than the burdensome traditional on-premises assembly of middleware capabilities in support of a project."

He added that by 2015 full PaaS suites will be available, delivering a combination of services in a single integrated offering.

On the vendor side, Natis said he would expect large vendors to grow through in-house development, partnerships, and acquisitions and small vendors to grow through partnerships and specialization. As those cloud offerings mature, users will be wooed into trying them out for the innovations and business models they'll offer.

Gartner predicted that by 2015, most organizations will run at least part of their enterprise software functionally in the cloud, using PaaS directly or indirectly. The favored approach, the firm said, would be a hybrid environment in which internal on-premises and external services are combined.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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