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Success and Innovation Starts with the Right Platform

By Gary Hamilton, Senior Cloud Management Solutions Architect, VMware

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Every day, companies like Square, Uber, Netflix, Airbnb, the Climate Corporation, and Etsy are creating innovative new business models. But they are only as innovative as the developers who build their applications and the agility of the platform on which those applications are delivered.

By using Pivotal CF, an enterprise PaaS solution (powered by Cloud Foundry) that is constantly delivering updates to and horizontally scaling their applications with no downtime, companies can develop applications at the speed of customer need/demand, not inhibited by infrastructure.

Businesses, now more than ever, have a greater need for agility and speed–a solid underlying platform is the key to delivering faster services.

We all consume software as a service (SaaS) like Gmail every day via our laptops, smart phones, and tablets. Platform as a service, or PaaS, acts as the middle layer between the applications and the infrastructure (that is compute, storage and network). If everything is operating smoothly, the actual infrastructure on which software is built is something that few users even give a second thought. And that’s how it should be.

The concept and value of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is easy to understand and grasp. Being able to consume virtual machines (VMs) on demand, instead of waiting days or weeks for a physical server, is a tangible problem. Platform as a service (PaaS) is different. Delivering VMs with middleware installed is how PaaS solutions have traditionally been presented, but isn’t that a software distribution and automation problem?

And therein lies the problem. We have neither identified the real problem, nor the real end user to whom PaaS is a real solution, and it is therefore difficult to quantify the real value proposition of PaaS.

As stated earlier, PaaS is intended to provide that middle layer between the infrastructure and the application. PaaS should be providing services that are leveraged/used by the application, enabling the application to deliver its services to its end user, abstracting that middle layer and the infrastructure. When we think about PaaS in these terms, we begin to hone in on the real problem and the real PaaS consumer: the developer.

However, the problem the developer faces is how to plug new services into an application on demand as quickly as he/she is able to develop the new application. Developers are neither DBA or Hadoop experts, nor are they experts in high availability (HA) and resilience, they are not security experts nor are they scaling and capacity management specialists.

With PaaS, developers can use services that meet functional and non-functional requirements on demand: they should be plugged right in with a variety of databases on demand. (Think of it as any database, elasticity, security, HA, or analytics on demand.) The possibilities are exciting! PaaS essentially brings in an application with business services wrapped around it and applications are enterprise-ready at the click of a button, versus waiting weeks or months to complete integration and performance testing.

The PaaS model is a bit different as it means consultants support a developer who then supports a business. The conventional cloud solutions are aimed at the end user or a customer, whereas now the focus is on the applications. As far as IT goes, the focus is shifting toward innovation away from the mentality that IT is about cost savings.

IT is No Longer About Saving Money

That’s right, IT is no longer about saving money. Sure, saving money is important, but that’s not where the real value is. The value is in new services that create new revenue streams.

Just look at the innovative companies I listed above. To succeed, they had to recognize that developers are the engine of innovation and innovation helps to drive revenue.

To help educate customers, consultants need to assume the role of educator so companies can understand how to become more agile in the face of a changing industry.

The problem is, many businesses see IT as a cost center and think that spending on IT isn’t money well spent. Businesses need to innovate to grow revenue. PaaS resonates with those innovative companies: they recognize that a fast and agile platform can only help them innovate and deliver new services faster. And, in turn, that leads to profitability.

Gary Hamilton is a Senior Cloud Management Solutions Architect at VMware and has worked in various IT industry roles since 1985, including support, services and solution architecture; spanning hardware, networking and software. Additionally, Gary is ITIL Service Manager certified and a published author. Before joining VMware, he worked for IBM for over 15 years, spending most of his time in the service management arena, with the last five years being fully immersed in cloud technology. He has designed cloud solutions across Europe, the Middle East and the US, and has led the implementation of first of a kind (FOAK) solutions. Follow Gary on Twitter @hamilgar.

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