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Which freaking PaaS should I use?

Andrew C. Oliver and Lifford Pinto | Oct. 10, 2012
Most of the buzz around the cloud has centered on infrastructure as a service (IaaS). However, IaaS is no longer good enough. Sure, you can forgo buying servers and run everything virtually on Amazon's EC2 server farm. So what? You still have to manage it, and to do that you'll have a growing IT bureaucracy. Companies that want to focus on writing their code and not have to think about application servers at all are now looking to platform as a service (PaaS).

Lock-in. Google's PaaS seems to be the most proprietary of all. We're talking serious lock-in, as in "download this to CSV and fix your code not to use Google's APIs." Ouch!

Security. Google App Engine is SAS70 (now SSAE16 and ISAE 3402) compliant.

Who's using it? Google sees mobile, Web, and gaming companies as being prime candidates. Google publishes an impressive list of customers that include companies like Pulse, Best Buy, Khan Academy, and Ubisoft.

How did they do? We couldn't get Granny to work on App Engine despite spending nearly five times as many minutes/hours we spent on the others. Google provides Spring examples, but the example apps are more simply structured than our application, which was originally based on the Spring Tool Suite IDE template.

Conclusions. Google's SLA is the best. This alone is why many companies we've worked with have chosen App Engine. Also, App Engine is mature. However, App Engine might not be our first choice for a legacy app, considering the amount of work we might have to do. We'd be even more concerned about lock-in for new apps. We'd want to do a lot more due diligence to prove we weren't stuck. When your stock price is $718 per share, investors are going to look to you to provide that value somewhere. Companies who base their entire infrastructure on you and can never leave would be one way you could do that in the long run.

Heroku

In development since 2007, Heroku is one of the original PaaS offerings. It was acquired by Salesforce.com in 2008. Heroku employs Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto, the creator of the Ruby programming language. In addition to Ruby, Heroku supports Java, Python, Node.js, Clojure, Grails, Gradle, Scala, and Play.

Differentiators. Heroku's key differentiator is its maturity. It has been publicly available for a number of years, and it enjoys a large marketplace of plug-ins. The company said more than 2.35 million apps are running live on the platform today. It noted that its official support for nine languages, and its many more community contributed languages and frameworks, differentiate Heroku from other PaaS offerings.

Lock-in. Heroku describes its PaaS as a 100 percent open platform that offers a native developer experience for both IDE-centric and command-line centric developers. In response to the lock-in question, the company said that code written to run on Heroku around modern best practices can easily run on any other standards-based platform, in-house or in the cloud.

Indeed the risks of lock-in do not seem more significant than with other PaaS offerings. We were able to deploy the Granny application without significant changes. However, it would be interesting to see how easy or difficult it is to dump data from a PostgreSQL or MySQL instance on Heroku.

 

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