PaaS and future of software development

Platform as a Service is getting a lot of buzz. But in a meeting recently I got a couple of great questions. 1) When will we stop virtualizing? We have a Java virtual machine, within a container within a virtual machine. 2) What is the business driver? 3) How am I going to manage this environment?

These are all great questions. After discussions with different sales reps I have posed the question of what is the selling point of PaaS to the CIO other than selling some hype curve that “this is the future of IT”. I don’t see companies like SAP and Oracle Financials running in a container or being deployed through something like Cloud Foundry. But this is also not the use case for these solutions. We need to start thinking differently. We need to start treating IT like a bunch of services. There are already applications like ESBs that provide this functionality as a stitching mechanism to the different services. But what happens when you are asked to build a custom dashboard or a new UI that allows users to interact with different existing services.

Traditionally we are asked to follow and ALM or SDLC to build and deploy these custom applications. In a traditional development shop, these applications require custom profiles to connect to different services in different environments and require an operations staff to give you access to the services you need to fulfill things like audit and governance requirements. The second component is around promotion of applications. Currently we use custom deployment tools like Maven, Jenkins and others to try to automate the build and release of our applications through the different environments. What if we could use agile techniques in accordance to a release train mentality that what we release is a container, not code that is already connected to services on the back end. This is where the business value comes in. Think of a development factory where you are prototyping in your development space, but once you hit QA, PreProd and Production, these filesystems are immutable and when you are performance testing, the goal is to scale to horizontally not vertically. That, to me, is the business advantage of PaaS. Forcing a waterfall driven business mentality to act and think like and agile one.

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