The Benefit of “Agility” is Alive and Well for Platform as a Service
Much of the discussion in the cloud computing industry is centered on cloud infrastructure services (a.k.a. infrastructure as a service or IaaS). One popular topic has been the benefits derived from cloud computing. For cloud infrastructure services in particular, cost reduction and agility are two of the most talked about benefits. And they are not without controversy.
Some argue that public cloud services cost more than on-premise services, cloud-based or otherwise. Others argue that public cloud services are actually less expensive. Of course examples of both cases can be found. In situations such as this it is really best not to argue in generalities. Those adopting cloud services should instead focus on the specific scenarios where the attributes of cloud computing produce benefits for them.
One common example of cost savings through cloud is an application with highly variable demand for compute resources. Another example is a temporary project which requires compute resources for just a few days or weeks. One nice aspect of these examples is that cost savings can be readily and accurately quantified. After all, it often takes cold, hard evidence of economic value to justify using a new approach such as cloud computing.
The other benefit, agility, can sometimes be harder to quantify. Still, it has made surprisingly good headway in terms of understanding and acceptance. Some even argue that agility – often used to describe a combined set of benefits including speed, flexibility, responsiveness to change, and more – is the single greatest benefit of cloud computing. People realize that cloud computing is not just about saving money. It has the potential to change the way some businesses operate. For instance, the self-service interface (commonly used with cloud services, and discussed in the last post) combined with behind the scenes automation allows IT staff, business users and even customers to get what they need, when they need it.
Agility and Platform as a Service
Cloud platform services (a.k.a. platform as a service or PaaS) are not getting quite as much attention as cloud infrastructure services. At the same time, changing the way developers create, deploy and manage applications could have an even greater impact on the future of IT. If applications were natively developed to run on cloud infrastructures (rather than migrated to them from traditional IT infrastructures which is more typical for now), then we should expect many more applications to be running in cloud environments.
This raises an interesting question. Is there anything extra appealing about developing applications with a PaaS? And would this potentially drive greater adoption of cloud computing in general. The simple answers are yes, and yes. It turns out that agility, as with cloud infrastructure services, is a key benefit of cloud platform services.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Tom Mornini, CTO and co-founder of Engine Yard. Simply put, Ruby on Rails Platform as a Service offerings from Engine Yard let you develop business-critical applications without worrying about application deployment, management and scaling. You can learn more about one Engine Yard service, Rails Application Cloud, here. Tom and his team see IT shops experience a 2x to 5x increase in application development speed when moving from Java to Rails. But it doesn’t stop there. Development is only part of the picture for applications. They must also be deployed, managed, and – for many applications – periodically scaled. By using Rails Application Cloud or other similar approaches, the gap between development and operations is greatly diminished. IT shops don’t just get the benefits of agile development, they get agile and integrated operations capabilities.
Summing it up
Cloud infrastructures services are not the only component of cloud computing that deliver agility. Cloud platform services can deliver agility throughout the application lifecycle – not just in development and not just in operations. If you’re looking to get the most out of cloud computing, don’t forget platform as a service, and don’t forget agility.