Independent platform-as-a-service providers acknowledge that theirs is a crowded market, especially with big IT vendors like Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and Dell entering as competitors, but they expressed confidence this week that there is room in the market for many players.
As some of the original PaaS providers who have been operating for a year or more, they said they have more expertise and motivation to offer better services than traditional enterprise vendors that are just entering the market now.
"It doesn't matter that there are so many [competitors]. The potential in the market is so huge. The real challenge is how to get the rest of the developers [not already using PaaS] to benefit from all the innovation going on," said Solomon Hykes, CEO of dotCloud, a small provider of platform services.
PaaS executives spoke this week at the CloudBeat conference in Redwood City, California. Companies like Engine Yard, dotCloud, Cumulogic, Appfog and Heroku, now owned by Salesforce.com, have attracted a loyal following of developers who appreciate that the platform providers let them concentrate on development so they don't have to worry about servers.
"We probably have deployed and scaled more Ruby apps than anyone on the planet," said John Dillon, CEO of Engine Yard. "So developers come to us. We know best."
But traditional IT vendors have taken notice, and now Oracle, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and others say they're building or have recently launched PaaS offerings, and in some cases infrastructure services. They join Microsoft, which already offers a PaaS service with Azure. These large IT providers may be attractive to businesses that have long relationships with them.
The independent PaaS providers seem to hope that their experience and the size of the market, combined with conflicting interests on the part of some big IT vendors, will keep them in business.
Traditional enterprise vendors want first and foremost to preserve their existing businesses, and the result may be services that don't fit the needs of developers, Dillon argued. Those who decide to offer robust services may do so to the detriment of sales of existing on-premise products, putting a strain on their businesses. "There will be some big winners and losers at the big IT vendors," he said.
Others agreed. "If you're going to do a PaaS you have to be about PaaS," Hykes said. But the bigger companies have other priorities. "Look at Microsoft or Google. Google is not about helping developers create software. It's not why they were created," he said. Google offers a platform service through its App Engine.
Meanwhile, independent providers recognize they must increase their scale to compete. "This is a big company game," said Isaac Roth, PaaS master at Red Hat's OpenShift PaaS service. "I don't think you can win as a little company."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.