Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Podcast: The three audiences for enterprise Platform-as-a-Service

Platform-as-a-Service, PaaS, is often pushed as a solution for developers. It is that. But enterprise PaaS is equally appealing to system admins and enterprise architects. In this discussion with Red Hat OpenShift product manager Joe Fernandes, we talk about how PaaS brings benefits to each of those constituencies.

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Gordon Haff:  Hello, everyone. This is Gordon Haff, cloud evangelist with Red Hat. And I'm sitting here with Joe Fernandes, the senior product manager for OpenShift, Red Hat's Platform‑as‑a‑Service.
By way of background, Platform‑as‑a‑Service is something that's been getting a lot of attention recently, particularly with hosted services, although now, as with OpenShift, we're also seeing more and more on‑premise offerings. Platform‑as‑a‑Service has historically, I think, been viewed as something for the developer. That is absolutely true, and we're going to talk about that a bit. But one of the interesting trends we see with Platform‑as‑a‑Service, as Joe is going to tell us about, is that we're also seeing a lot of interest from other groups within enterprise IT departments ‑‑ system administrators, enterprise architects.
Welcome, Joe.
Joe Fernandes:  Hi, Gordon.
Gordon:  Why have enterprises been reluctant, in many cases, to adopt Platform‑as‑a‑Service until recently?
Joe:  I think the challenges that enterprises have had with Platform‑as‑a‑Service are just the challenges that they've had with adopting public cloud services in general. Enterprises have a lot of inherent challenges in terms of ensuring security, challenges with compliance that may be specific to their industry or vertical, and so forth. They may have issues like data privacy, depending on what part of the world they do business in, even governance and processes that they've set up, and also need to support a disparate set of applications, new applications, legacy applications. They have complex infrastructure. Much like cloud in general, for Platform‑as‑a‑Service oftentimes these various concerns that you see in enterprises really would preclude them from going full‑force into the public cloud to leverage some of the popular public PaaS services that exist today.
Gordon:  Also, at least in the early days, a lot of those public PaaS services were also really point solutions for, say, a particular programming language.
Joe:  Right, exactly. I think, initially, a lot of the PaaS services that were introduced were focused on a specific language, although these days I think more PaaS vendors are moving to a polyglot platform, which is something that we've always believed in here at Red Hat with OpenShift, supporting multiple languages and frameworks. And as you mentioned, it's a particular concern of the enterprise, because they do have so many different types of applications and in most cases are using multiple languages and different technologies to build those apps.
Gordon:  As I said in my introduction, one of the interesting trends that we're seeing is that groups other than developers are getting very interested in the benefits that PaaS can bring to them. Before we get into that, let's talk about the developer. What does a PaaS do for a developer?
Joe:  For developers, really, Platform‑as‑a‑Service is all about bringing greater agility and giving them a greater degree of self‑service, really removing IT as the bottleneck to getting things done. In public PaaS services like OpenShift, developers can come and instantly begin deploying applications. They can choose from a variety of languages and frameworks and other services like databases and so forth. And they don't need to wait for systems to be provisioned and software to be configured. The platform is all there waiting for them, so they can be productive much more quickly. And really, what that means is that they can focus on what matters most to them, which is really their application code. They can iterate on their designs and really see the applications up and running without having to worry about how to manage what's running underneath.
Gordon:  In a lot of cases, particularly with newer dynamic languages and the like, if the developer never sees the operating system, that's just fine with them.
Joe:  Absolutely, yeah. I think most developers would agree with that.
Gordon:  You talked about some of these other groups as well. Let's talk about system admins. Why are they interested in Platform‑as‑a‑Service?
Joe:  It's been very interesting. Since we launched OpenShift, here at Red Hat, we have received lots of interest in Platform‑as‑a‑Service, and OpenShift in particular, from our customer base and the industry as a whole. But a lot of that isn't strictly limited to developers. You mentioned system administrators. We've spoken to a number of IT operations teams, including system administrators, enterprise architects and so forth, and they see Platform‑as‑a‑Service as a way to help them better serve their developers, helping the business accelerate the delivery of new services, which often comes in the form of new applications, whether they be Web applications or mobile applications.
And being able to standardize the developer work flows. What I mean by that is the process that they need to go through every time that a developer starts on a new project, really standardizing the process and getting them provisioned with the infrastructure they need, with the software they need, so that they can start either developing or doing testing or performance testing, or even getting those applications all the way through to production.
What we've also seen is administrators are interested in how this helps them make better use of their infrastructure. And we talk about this quite a bit. We saw a real sea change, as enterprises moved from running purely physical infrastructures, bare‑metal servers and so forth, to more virtualized environments.
That transition has occurred at most of our accounts, and most developers today that you talk to, they're working with virtualized infrastructure, and in some cases enterprises have set up large virtualization farms where developers can self‑provision VMs, and maybe there's catalogs of templates that they can take advantage of.
That's largely been adopted. The question is, where do they go next? How can they get greater efficiency? How can they make things even bring greater agility to their developers, beyond what they've been able to achieve just with virtualization alone?
Gordon:  Efficiency and agility and speed seem to be something that's really become important. It's sort of interesting. For a while, I think a lot of people were saying, "This Software‑as‑a‑Service thing is going to replace enterprise applications." But really, what we're seeing is, as IT, information technology, becomes more and more central to more and more types of businesses, developing applications in‑house is really that much more important, and there's almost an infinite appetite for it.
Joe:  Yeah. What I think would surprise people is just the sheer number of applications that enterprises are building today and that they're responsible for, and how this multiplies as you introduce new form factors, like mobile versions of the application or applications that want to run in tablet‑based computing devices, iPads and so forth. As you mentioned, even if you go with a Software‑as‑a‑Service‑based solution ‑‑ say, which is very popular ‑‑ even when you go with a solution like that, what you still see is enterprises building applications that will tie into Salesforce or other SaaS applications, third‑party applications that they may bring in‑house. They still need to build complementary applications, whether it's quoting or whether it's for tying in with partners or billing or what have you, things that would basically go beyond purely what they could get from their SaaS provider.
Absolutely, we see no limit to the appetite for new application development within the enterprise customer base.
Gordon:  Actually, when we talk about some of the more popular enterprise Software‑as‑a‑Service, really, they're a Software‑as‑a‑Service from the perspective of the end user, but they're really a specialized Platform‑as‑a‑Service from the perspective of developers.
Joe:  Yeah, that's correct. In a lot of cases, those SaaS applications, as I mentioned, create the need or the opportunity to build complementary services around that that really suit the needs of a specific business and may not be addressed by the SaaS provider themselves.
Gordon:  Let's talk about the third audience here, enterprise architects. You talk to a lot of them, I know. What's their interest in PaaS? What's their angle?
Joe:  Ultimately, enterprise architects are really trying to marry the IT infrastructure, the IT operation, to the needs of the business, right? So they have to understand where the business is going and how IT's going to support that and how to architect their infrastructure, their applications, their processes to address those needs. What we've already mentioned is that there's a tremendous growth in demand from the business for new services, new applications, new mobile applications, new web services and so forth. And the question is, how is IT going to support that demand? Really, it falls on enterprise architects to help figure that out.
We've seen that interest in different forms. One is just, again, looking from just a pure developer‑agility perspective. How can they make developers more efficient and reduce the bottlenecks within the IT process so that developers can quickly get up and running when a new application product is initiated?
Something like Platform‑as‑a‑Service, where, again, developers have self‑service capabilities, they have a catalog of middleware and database services at their disposal that they can use, choices of languages and frameworks and so forth that they can use to start in on their projects, that brings a lot of efficiency in terms of this whole work flow.
But then you flip it around to looking at infrastructure utilization. Again, virtualization has brought a lot of efficiencies in terms of making better use of physical infrastructure resources. Platform‑as‑a‑Service goes further in terms of introducing this concept of VM‑level multi‑tenancy and so forth. In a Platform‑as‑a‑Service, what the provider is doing is oftentimes running not a single application per VM host but actually running several applications and making use of things like Linux multi‑tenancy.
Again, particularly as these applications get smaller and as you start seeing larger numbers of applications that you have to support, thinking about how the infrastructure is going to be able to scale to support those new applications from a hosting perspective is something that the enterprise architects and the IT administrators need to think about.
It really is both sides. How do you make the development process itself more efficient, and how do you make infrastructure that supports that process more efficient and more scalable to allow the business to grow?
Gordon:  Without getting into the latest trendy terms and the like, it's also a reality, whether you call it DevOps, ITOps, NoOps, whatever kind of ops, these different audiences are much more closely connected and have to, to some degree, work in each other's worlds to a greater degree than was historically the case.
Joe:  Yeah, exactly. Like I said, the industry will cycle through its buzz terms and concepts and so forth, but you're never going to eliminate the role of the IT operations team in an enterprise context. What you need to do is figure out how the operations team can work more effectively with the development side of the house to meet the needs of the business. To me, it's not dev or ops. It's really both. The developers aren't going to take over the job that the IT operations team does any less than the IT operations team is going to be able to build and deploy their own applications and so forth.
The question is, how do both sides work more effectively together? How do they reduce friction and really help accelerate time to market? Because, ultimately, that's all the business cares about. Business cares about when they can get their new service and how quickly they can start leveraging that, whether it's an internal or external application that they're looking for, and it's incumbent on IT organizations, operations team, as well as developers, to help figure that out. That's really what we're trying to do with Platform‑as‑a‑Service is to drive that process forward.
Gordon:  Thank you very much, Joe.
Joe:  Yeah, thanks a lot, Gordon. It's been great talking to you today.
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