December 16, 2014

Looking Ahead: Rebuilding PaaS in a Containerized World

crystal ballPlatform-as-a-Service (PaaS) technology has transformed the way enterprise applications and services are deployed and delivered. Benefits including flexibility, agility, scalability and efficiency continue to attract growing numbers of business users. Globally, the PaaS market was valued at $1.60 billion in 2013, and it's forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25.7 percent over the next few years to reach $7.98 billion by 2020, according to a recent Transparency Market Research report.

As 2014 draws to a close, however, it also seems fair to say that the PaaS market is in a new state of flux. Why? The cause can be more or less summed up in a single word: Docker. Currently the leading example of containerization technology, Docker's growing popularity has already affected the PaaS arena, as new offerings built around it -- Deis is one shining example -- begin to emerge.

Looking ahead, the continuing containerization trend promises even more disruption over the coming years. How will PaaS be affected? Linux.com spoke with some experts recently to get their take.

'Significant Benefit to Be Had'

"This is a really interesting area," Paul Fremantle, cofounder and CTO at WSO2 and a contributor to the Apache StratosPaaS project, told Linux.com. "It's clear that Docker is rapidly gaining traction in this space and that there is significant benefit to be had from using lightweight containers in a PaaS model."

Several different factors -- including microservices, multi-tenancy and elastic scaling latency -- are all driving people towards Docker and containerization, Fremantle explained.

"We realized this in the Apache Stratos project a while ago, and we decided to evaluate the whole container ecosystem, not just Docker," he noted. "We have done a lot of work with Docker, CoreOS and Kubernetes to make Stratos work seamlessly in a containerized world, and to look where we can add value onto those projects and into that ecosystem. We are just about to release Stratos 4.1, which works on top of those projects."

Stratos has "some significant technical and nontechnical advantages in the PaaS space, and this close link and first-class support for containers is part of that," Fremantle added.

'Containers Offer This Disruptive Change'

Deis, meanwhile, was "the first PaaS technology to market that was purpose-built to leverage Docker," creator Gabriel Monroy, who is CTO at OpDemand, told Linux.com.

"What's happened with Docker is that at the CIO level, or even the senior technical leadership level, folks have realized that containers offer this disruptive change," Monroy explained, with benefits including "the ability to be agile and to use less resources because you don't have to share the host kernel."

In general, one trend now affecting the market is the move toward increased density in the data center, he said; another is about how people build software, such as the move toward microservices and service-oriented architectures.

"People are writing applications in a way that they can leverage a distributed system and are tolerant of failures in a distributed system," he said. "What these new, next-generation PaaS do is hold software teams' hands through the process. The platform provides guidelines and provides a target toward which to build."

Of course, Docker isn't the only player in the container arena, Monroy pointed out. "I think there's still going to be a lot of movement in the container space, but we're grateful to Docker for giving it revived life."

'An Ideal Place to Support Containers'

Looking forward, enterprise-oriented private PaaS will be driven by continued enterprise interest and use of clouds -- "particularly private clouds and hybrid clouds that combine the elasticity, scalability and other advantages of public clouds used in tandem with private clouds under the control of organizations for security, compliance and other concerns," Jay Lyman, a senior analyst for enterprise software with 451 Research, told Linux.com.

"While the public PaaS offerings have been used mainly for Web and mobile applications and mobile back ends, this is starting to change as they begin to gain more enterprise use and as private PaaS becomes more credible and legitimate for more complex, multi-tier, data-intensive and enterprise applications," Lyman said.

Docker and application containers, meanwhile, are "certainly playing a significant role in enterprise PaaS, and this should continue given that PaaS is still an ideal place to support containers and the widespread support among PaaS offerings," he predicted. "I think IaaS and these cloud providers will also continue to play a significant role in the PaaS market as we see further convergence in IaaS and PaaS management capabilities and continued M&A (mergers and acquisitions) involving IaaS and PaaS vendors."

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