I fear my thinking of late may be somewhat inconsistent: one part of my brain sees quite clearly that PaaS (platform as a service) is destined to win as the preferred method for developing and staging software in the future. I firmly believe that. At the same time, part of me has been assuming that the “migration to cloud” is simply swapping traditional OS/server infrastructure – which I call “legacy IaaS” – for private or public cloud IaaS. And that, I believe, is not going to be the case in the limit.
Perhaps as a software guy working for a traditionally hardware company, I’ve allowed part of me to succumb to fallacious thinking: that people will always want to manage their own infrastructure – install their own operating system, configure it, and then stage software on top of that stack. But my belief that PaaS wins is at complete odds with that thinking.
There’s no doubt that in the short term, consumers of IT will find it valuable to simply migrate their current legacy IaaS workloads, whether they are physical or virtual, from traditional data centers to IaaS cloud platforms. It’s relatively straightforward and usually doesn’t require an application rewrite. The trend is accelerating and will continue for some time for various reasons: to control spending, be more agile in responding to market demands, or to take advantage of cloud-specific benefits such as better global reach or multiple staging points across geographies. But these benefits are inherent to the fundamental nature of “cloud computing” and are not specific to IaaS.
It will become quite clear, quite soon, that IaaS is not the right delivery model on which to build end-user consumed software (SaaS). Managing one’s own OS and run-time environment stack may give one a sense of control and security, but it isn’t scalable or competitive in the face of PaaS alternatives. At some tipping point, migrations from traditional IaaS to cloud IaaS will be redirected to PaaS. More than that, those who have migrated to cloud IaaS will make a final migration to PaaS, leaving IaaS behind for good.
This “IaaS exodus” is inevitable. Whether it be on-premises or off, private or public, managed or unmanaged – Infrastructure as a Service can’t compete with Platform as a Service for application development and delivery. Infrastructure will always be there, but it will be running the PaaS – not the apps.