Platform as a Service emerges from shadows of SaaS and IaaS

The PaaS market is ready to join the cloud party with Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service, says Gartner. But what exactly is PaaS?
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

The Software as a Service (think Salesforce.com) and Infrastructure as a Service (think Amazon) markets are a big deal, but their younger sibling, Platform as a Service has still been a work in progress. 

However, Gartner has just announced PaaS, too, is ready to join the party. In fact, the global PaaS market is set to more than double over the next four years, the analyst firm predicts. Worldwide platform as a service (PaaS) revenue is on pace to reach $1.2 billion in 2012, up from $900 million in 2011, according to Gartner, Inc. The market will experience consistent growth with worldwide PaaS revenue totaling 1.5 billion in 2013, and growing to $2.9 billion in 2016.

Big money, but still relatively small compared Gartner's prediction of $14.5 billion for SaaS this year.

What does Gartner mean by PaaS?  For that matter, what does anybody mean by PaaS? PaaS is a range of capabilities and services that encompass application infrastructure and middleware. It occurs as suites of application infrastructure services, integration platforms, as well as specialist application infrastructure services such as database platform as a service, business process management platform as a service, messaging as a service and other functional types of middleware offered as a cloud service. PaaS is emerging in both private cloud settings as well as public cloud services.

What advantage does PaaS offer over IaaS? For one thing, PaaS takes care of a lot of the plumbing of protocols and standards, so a tech staff isn't required to put it all together to make sure it all works (still required with IaaS). 

In terms of vendors, IBM and Microsoft -- large application infrastructure management vendors -- have the strongest positions in the PaaS space, but most of it is still up for grabs, Gartner says. Expect to see "more competitive landscape disruption over the next three years since many of the largest enterprise software vendors are on the cusp of entering the PaaS market with their own offerings."

Gartner analyst Yefim Natis, a familiar name in the middleware space, puts it this way:

"All software mega-vendors are strategically investing in the PaaS market despite the relatively modest projected market revenue. Application infrastructure, and in this case application infrastructure as a service (PaaS), has always played a central role in establishing the standards, architectures and best practices in enterprise software markets. The vendors expect their leadership in the PaaS market to translate to large and effective ecosystems of partners, developers and solutions. PaaS technologies are embedded in many other types of cloud services — all major opportunity channels. The direct revenue in the PaaS market grossly underestimates the importance of this part of the cloud architecture."

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