Microsoft not perturbed by rival PaaS offerings

Strong existing user base versed in Windows coding language and familiarity with environment key differentiators for Microsoft over alternative cloud platform offerings, exec says.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Microsoft will continue to rely on its strong customer base and user familiarity with Windows-based development languages and applications to maintain its edge in the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market over rival alternatives.

According to Harish Aitharaju, server and tools business group lead at Microsoft Singapore's marketing and operations department, the PaaS space is "definitely heating up" following recent product announcements by Oracle and IBM, as well as existing alternatives by VMware and Salesforce.com.

Despite the competition, he noted that there was "strong growth" in the number of customers signing up for Microsoft's own PaaS offering, Azure. This growth reflected the conversion of businesses that signed up as trial users to full-fledged commercial users, explained Singapore-based Aitharaju, who was speaking to ZDNet Asia after a media briefing here Thursday.

IBM on Wednesday unveiled its PaaS strategy with the launch of a series of SmartCloud software and services. Big Blue said it had ported SAP software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications and all databases to its private cloud platform. Oracle, meanwhile, announced at its OpenWorld conference last week that its public cloud would be a combination of PaaS and software-as-a-service (SaaS), glued together by Java Enterprise Edition.

To differentiate itself from the competition, Aitharaju said Microsoft was banking on its strong customer base as well as partnership with independent software vendors (ISVs) to keep ahead of the pack. He added that as businesses looked to refresh their IT resources and move to cloud-based infrastructure, this would be the "best time" to convince them to commit to Microsoft's virtualization technology, Hyper-V, and Azure platform.

Additionally, he said Azure already has a significant number of ready-made apps in areas such as human resource processes, billing and customer relationship management (CRM) that customers can tap. This means Microsoft also stands to gain from the business these ISVs clinch with their customers, he said.

He also noted that because both ISVs and Microsoft's internal developers were already familiar with Redmond's app development languages, and end-users were used to the company's enterprise tools such as Office and Outlook, companies would be inclined to continue working with Microsoft.

Aitharaju's points were corroborated by a Gartner study released earlier this month, which projected worldwide revenue for PaaS would reach US$1.8 billion in 2015. This year's revenue was predicted to hit US$707.4 million, the research firm added.

Fabrizio Biscotti, research director at Gartner, predicted that competition among vendors in the PaaS space would increase in the coming years, too.

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