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How Platform as a Service Super-Charges Software Development

November 25, 2013 No Comments

If you are looking for a compelling business case for Platform as a Service, look no further than some of leading firms that are racing to keep up with changes technology is imposing on their business models. Many of these organizations – not in the software business per say – depend on being able to create and deploy the latest software to keep one step ahead of the digital tsunamis sweeping their sectors.

Take Aetna Insurance, one of the world’s largest health insurance providers, an industry being pulled into the digital age in massive fits and starts. Earlier this year, I sat down with Jay Snyder, director of platform engineering at Aetna, and learned how his company’s private cloud is hosting a range of development tools and platforms for the company’s large software development shop. The company’s developers no longer have to worry whether their individual machines have enough processing and storage capacity to build and test new applications – the space is carved out for them in the cloud. Aetna’s Platform as a Service cloud will constantly update these virtualized workstations, providing developers immediate access to their desktops, along with whatever tools, IDEs, or languages they need at the moment.

For companies in the auto accessories sector, the evolution of cars from transportation machines to computers on wheels means being able to write millions of lines of new code every month to keep up with ever-evolving features. At Panasonic’s burgeoning in-car systems unit, PaaS is helping to dramatically speed up software development across its far-flung network of global development teams. Time to market in the automotive industry is everything, and PaaS has provided a consistent, accessible environment for teams from Atlanta in the US to India to share and pass along project work, John Penoyer, group manager of engineering at Panasonic, described in a recent BrightTalk webcast.

Panasonic’s development platforms were formerly hosted within its Atlanta data center. The team writes code for increasingly sophisticated in-vehicle systems, such as the UConnect system now on Chrysler consoles. As demand and sophistication in these systems has grown – with cars now running millions of lines of code – so has pressure to deliver highly functional embedded software within a years’ time.

Along with Aetna and Panasonic, many other organizations are starting to recognize the advantages of PaaS, which is defined as application development platforms and middleware in the cloud. Even the world’s largest organization, the US government, sees huge advantages in the approach. For example, MeriTalk, a public-private IT consortium, recently released a survey report in which federal IT managers estimate that PaaS has the potential to cut federal IT costs by at least $20.5 billion annually, with applications potentially being built at a faster rate than with traditional on-premises toolsets.

It’s a fast-growing space within the cloud world. IDC projects that the global PaaS market will grow to over $14 billion over the next three years, expanding at a rate of 30% a year. A survey of 262 enterprises I conducted as part of my work with Unisphere Research (and sponsored by Oracle), found PaaS has caught on significantly over the the past two years. PaaS adoption among private cloud adopters has almost doubled from 2010 – from 36% to 51%. The adoption rate for private cloud-based PaaS is 53% among the larger organizations. Among public cloud adopters, PaaS adoption has jumped from 18% to 20% since 2010.

Some advice for moving to a PaaS environment:

Determine whether the PaaS should be supported within an external cloud or internally. Surprisingly, it isn’t always cheaper to go outside. At Aetna, Jay Snider crunched the numbers and determined it was  cheaper for Aetna to maintain PaaS on its own private cloud than subscribe to an outside PaaS provider. There’s always a hybrid approach as well, where some tools or functions will come from outside providers who know how to do it better, while other aspects will come from private cloud for security reasons. Each application has characteristics and requirements which determine whether it is suited for public clouds, private clouds, or traditional architectures. Organizations should select the best approach for each application instead of a blanket approach for all applications.

Get developers on board. It may seem obvious, since these are the individuals or teams who will benefit the most from a cloud strategy. But it’s important that developers see the PaaS as receptive to any needs they have – otherwise, they will start working outside the bounds of the PaaS, downloading or using their own individual solutions.

Get the business on board. The PaaS may most directly impact the tasks of developers, but the effort needs the support of management. While the benefits are most apparent to IT and development managers, the benefits of PaaS extend far into the business as well. The ability to quickly get new software out into the market or into products translates into extreme competitive advantage. Cloud solutions only deliver value if they have the support and input of the business. Build out a cloud infrastructure incrementally, starting with smaller or pilot projects that deliver quick wins that will generate enthusiasm from the rest of the business.

Figure out where the funding will come from. Cloud service adoption may be coming out of individual departmental budgets, perhaps even on an under-the-radar basis, perhaps via credit card charges from discretionary budgets. An organization may have several instances of the same tools being used by different development groups. The prime advantage, of course, would be to provide for a single, shared platform of which all groups can take advantage. Again, the cost and agility advantages of PaaS may be lost if developers from different groups are using their own tools and platforms.


joemckendrick 136 How Platform as a Service Super Charges Software Development

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent researcher, covering innovation, information technology trends and markets.  Much of his research work is in conjunction with Unisphere Research/ Information Today, Inc. for user groups including SHARE, Oracle Applications Users Group, Independent Oracle Users Group and International DB2 Users Group. He is also research analyst with GigaOM Pro Research.

He is a regular contributor to, and well as a contributor to CBS interactive, authoring the ZDNet “Service Oriented” site, and CBS interactive’s SmartPlanet site.

Joe is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto, which outlines the values and guiding principles of service orientation in business and IT.

In a previous life, he served as communications and research manager of the Administrative Management Society (AMS), an international professional association dedicated to advancing knowledge within the IT and business management fields. He is a graduate of Temple University.


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