Sinclair Schuller is co-founder and CEO of Apprenda and has previously held positions at Morgan Stanley, Eden Communications and the State University of New York (SUNY).
The data center is undergoing a significant transformation. In the past 15 or so years, data center discussions have been extremely hardware-centric, but as the power of cloud computing comes to pass there is a shift towards infrastructure software. The next-generation data center will be defined by the software that coordinates all of the hardware to achieve a greater level of efficiency. In fact, all of the devices that we have will no longer be directly exposed to business applications. Instead, business applications will be cushioned from the details of hardware by a "data-center-wide operating system" known as Platform as a Service (PaaS), ushering in a true private cloud world.
The past decade of enterprise IT has been driven by Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and virtualization. While these technologies have brought great value to the data center and software developers, they have not provided a universal remedy to all that ails enterprise IT strategies. Significant issues still exist, but the recent emergence of PaaS in public cloud and private PaaS as its private cloud sibling, has been touted as the newest technology to revolutionize enterprise IT.
With private PaaS, enterprises can achieve the flexibility of public PaaS but within the complexity of an enterprise’s existing data center investments, and developers can write applications using traditional programming languages and modern architecture patterns, and deploy those applications in their private clouds. In addition to providing commoditized platform services, the PaaS model also allows developers to more easily consume internal infrastructure and to avoid becoming entangled in cumbersome internal procedures required to deploy and manage their newly developed applications.
From a business value point of view, a private PaaS approach is ideal for the data center because it allows enterprise developers to access the value of PaaS, which includes faster time to market, increase agility, reduced costs and complexity and streamlined application management. Being the best of both worlds, private PaaS enables significant cloud-based improvements in the enterprise IT experience without the adoption hurdles associated with public PaaS.
PaaS Adoption Challenges
The biggest challenge to PaaS adoption in the data center is cultural. Enterprises are accustomed to much more friction in interactions between their developers, data center, and IT managers because there is no common layer that they all agree on. Developers write applications that get “thrown over the fence” to other teams for deployment and management, and typically, this is mired in process and bureaucracy.
Private PaaS enables a self-service model. Through the PaaS software, data center and IT managers define strict parameters and boundaries for how infrastructure can be used – “the playground” where anything goes since proper controls are in place – and developers can log in to the private PaaS and “publish” applications to the infrastructure in a mouse click or two. The private PaaS defines a common layer that all parties can agree on, so learning to operate without red tape will take some time.
A second challenge is that all parties would be operating in an environment where the application (rather than the infrastructure) is the “first-class citizen.” Although infrastructure is typically deployed in support of applications, applications are rarely the common currency. Recognizing and managing an IT department that is PaaS-based means changing processes and mindset to be application oriented, which would be a first for most managers.
Next-generation Data Center
Strategically, I would urge IT and data center managers to focus on solutions that can truly deliver the key value drivers of increased agility, increased utilization and increased productivity. Private PaaS will transform the data center by getting all parties involved, from IT executives to IT operators and software developers, to focus on applications rather than infrastructure.
As with any good operating system metaphor, private PaaS ensures that mission critical - yet overall irrelevant - details are abstracted away and only important workflows and capabilities such as application deployment and out-of-the-box cloud application architectures and APIs are exposed to developers and IT staff. Just like living in a world where specific details about the memory in your computer would impact your end user experience and cause innovation to come to a screeching halt, so would innovation in an enterprise IT future without private PaaS.
Private PaaS Will Play Significant Part
As data centers move to this more software-centric approach, PaaS, and specifically private PaaS, will play a crucial role in effectively distributing mission critical applications to enterprises and throughout the data center.
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