Saturday, January 18, 2014

2013 AWS re:Invent Conference Was Excellent

I had the opportunity to attend Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing conference, “AWS re:Invent” at the end of 2013.  I had a lot of fun, it was a lot of work, and I also went through the typical three phases of a conference attendee:
  • Shock and Awe -- The overwhelming stimulus input at the beginning of the show
  • Bewitchment -- The infatuation with the great ideas and marketing
  • Oversaturation -- Inability to take in one more presentation, product, or discussion about cloud computing.
Overall, AWS re:Invent, was one of the best conferences that I’ve been too in a while.  Here are some of my key takeaways from the event.

Is the PaaS market as we know it dying? I don't think so.

I just finished reading an article by Brandon Butler titled “Is the Paas market as we know it dying?”.  I don’t think PaaS market will die but the market will change by collapsing most PaaS into IaaS portfolios but I also feel it’s still a budding market and surprises are in store.

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a way to deliver an environment by which a developer can develop and deploy their applications without thinking about all of the infrastructure under that platform (servers, storage, networking, clustering, etc).  For the most part, unless the infrastructure has a direct impact to the desired outcome, a developer would rather ignore what model of blade and SAN storage is in the rack to drive the application.  Deliver enough performance and reliability and what is actually driving the platform becomes mute to a developer.  By doing this in the cloud, IT shops can outsource everything else below the line (For more, see my other PaaS article).  

As long as all of the services and tools that a developer needs are on the PaaS platform, all is well. If a critical piece is missing, you will need to move down the stack and implement the platform on top of “Infrastructure as a Service”  (IaaS) along with custom tooling.  IaaS gives the developer shop full-control but it comes at a cost.  By moving down the stack the team will need to own all of the responsibilities that comes with owning that layer.  

I think we will continue to see IaaS providers deploy PaaS or acquire others that have PaaS offerings.  It will be interesting to see what AWS does in this space.  In my opinion Elastic Beanstalk is their current solution.  Where this doesn’t fit, companies are using AWS OppsWorks as a repeatable way to deliver consistent PaaS environments do their developers.  The footprint of AWS and the myriad of additional services (message queue, database, analytics, workflow...) make it an attractive option without offering a PaaS like Heroku.    

I think the PaaS market will continue to bubble and boil.  It’s a much more turbulent environment than IaaS because of the amount of change that goes on at that layer.  Development languages, and software development tools, extensions, and development environments are changing rapidly.  If asked what I would do on a particular project it would depend on the amount of change and size.  The larger the project, the more risk that I will get into a situation that will force me to go the IaaS route.  It it’s a small, closed in project, I’ll go with pure play PaaS.


-- Chris Claborne