Krishnan Subramanian and Ben Kepes have just delivered a needed update on the state of cloud warfare, focusing especially on recent moves by Heroku (where I was earlier today). Krish of CloudAve breaks down the contenders into three main groups:
Traditional (Heroku) Server like a repository. You push. Everything just works.
Packaged (Amazon). Push, but exposed IaaS layer.
Federated (VMWare). Network of clouds, customization in side.
Krish expects federated servers to win out. Although he doesn’t pick any winners, he says Cloud Foundry/VMWare is the front runner at the moment. Folks like Heroku aren’t apparently not competitive for big enterprise apps.
Ben Kepes suggest the division is more like this:
Infrastructure PaaS (Heroku, Amazon). Caters to developers used to working with infrastructure. Customization where you need it.
Application PaaS (Force.com). Just get to the app! Fully managed infrastructure.
He also suggests that these are fairly separate arenas and are diverging.
First of all, I’m more on the Ben Kepes side of things. Basically, how you manage your PaaS offering (hopefully well!) is a distinct issue to how it appears to the world. Architectural decisions are not features. Choosing to expose certain aspects to your users or provide for certain technologies and not others is. However, diversification is frequently not a winning strategy if it ends up with feature bloat — too many features requiring maintenance without necessarily meeting the needs of paying users. What do the users want? I’d guess the main aspects are the following: ease of use, scalability, features, price. The fact that different market segments will weight different aspects differently is a good reason why despite a crowded market there will probably be a lot of contenders for quite some time.
Second, it is worth noting who is not mentioned. Microsoft is still here (albeit not a front runner), but Google and other Ruby cloud folks (Engine Yard) are not highlighted at all. Yikes!
Third, it is worth noting the challenge of the “enterprise,” which most likely still hasn’t moved much if any of its core services into the cloud. Yes, Salesforce is “enterprisy,” but apps are usually extensions of its core CRM functionality, not fully featured “standalone” apps. Who will service them? I think that is still to be determined, and I wouldn’t write off any of the main contenders just yet.