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Ron Schmelzer

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Cloud Computing: Blog Post

The Cloud Can Set Coders Free

BriefingsDirect Analysts Unpack PaaS, Predict Future Impact on Enterprises and Developers

People talk about “The Cloud” as if it is one unified platform, but it’s the exact opposite, argues Jim Kobielus, senior analyst at Forrester Research.

Misconceptions of what “The Cloud” is and a general lack of standardization among the vendors offering cloud computing services is bound to be confusing to organizations contemplating moving enterprise applications out onto the Internet.

In a podcast featuring a panel industry thought leaders, moderated by yours' truly, we offer new insight into the current status of cloud offerings and the future need for open standards and governance. Who is using the cloud for what -- and where this trend is going -- are discussed as the podcast panelists unpack the Platform as a Service (PaaS) concept in BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition, Volume 40.

But before everyone jumps on the cloud bandwagon, they need to know what they are getting into, and Kobielus warns of dangers ahead if the cloud vendors end up returning to the era of silos. With each vendor creating their own proprietary version, the cloud could transform service-oriented architecture (SOA) into “silo or stealth pipe” architecture.

“The current state of cloud computing goes against the grain of SOA, where SOA is all about platform agnosticity and being able to port services flexibly and transparently from one operating platform to another,” Kobielus argues.

"This a real challenge for Microsoft. It's like the open systems discussion we had a little while ago," says David A. Kelly, president of Upside Research. "It makes more sense for players that actually earn their revenue in a different form than traditional operators, because someone like Amazon has a core business.

"Someone like Microsoft is kind of painted into the corner at the moment. That's a challenge not just for Microsoft, but for other traditional vendors. They can expand into this new area by offering low-cost services that take away from competitors, but don't hurt their core business," said Kelly.

But the cloud may simply not yet be at the stage of maturity where vendors can all get together and sing "Kumbaya." Jonathan Bryce, co-founder of Mosso, a cloud services provider at Rackspace , says vendors and providers are still getting their acts together.

“We are still developing what our niche is going to be,” he explained. “So there hasn't been a lot time to kind of stick our heads up and say, 'Oh, okay, this is what they are doing, and this is what we are doing, and it makes sense for us to tie these together'.”

That doesn’t mean everyone is afraid to try out cloud computing.

Developers, always a curious and adventuresome bunch, are already flying off into the clouds that provide them with easy access to compute power in the PaaS mode.

The cloud can set coders free, says Rourke McNamara, product marketing director at TIBCO Software, in making the positive case for PaaS. [Disclosure: TIBCO is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

“It frees them from having to worry about a bunch of details that have nothing to do with their core business, and the application they are writing,” McNamara explains. “It frees them from having to install platform software on a bunch of machines, putting those machines into racks, connecting them up to the management and monitoring infrastructure, from getting everything set-up, so that those machines are fault-tolerant and the loads distributing appropriately, from making sure that they have got the right machines to handle load, and making sure that they are predicting load increases and capacity increase or requirement increases, and far enough advance, but they are able to buy new machines.”

Beyond just being a developers’ playground, the panelists see the cloud as eventually hosting Web-based Business Intelligence (BI), data mart, data mining and outward-facing B2B and B2C applications.

“You don't make your money by selling your own bellybutton,” quips Michael Meehan, senior analyst with Current Analysis. “You make your money by going out and interacting with the rest of the world, and so those are where the opportunities are.”

Meehan suggests that the governance or “adult supervision” needed for the cloud can build on what has already been done with SOA. He sees the cloud has the extension of service-orientation. He argues that not only is SOA not dead but the past decade of work on industry standards for services will allow organizations to take advantage of PaaS for business applications.

“I don't think you can move out to the cloud unless you are essentially service-oriented,” Meehan said. “I don't think the one exists without the other.”

So join our guests and analysts as they to dig into the enterprise role of PaaS.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes and Podcast.com.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.