Paul Turner, senior product manager at NetSuite which has 10,000 customers using its SaaS-delivered ERP software, says there are several tell-tale signs of a "false cloud" application. Turner says a native cloud application is completely Web-based, from the user experience through to the administrator experience. "It needs to be as easy to access as Gmail," argues Turner.
Secondly, the service must offer a customization layer that allows enterprise IT to make the tweaks to suit its needs, and those changes must migrate seamlessly with each upgrade to the service. And finally, Turner argues there must be a high level of transparency about any downtime and security issues.
SaaS begets PaaS
Many of the leading SaaS players -- Salesforce.com, Google, NetSuite, and WorkDay -- are trying to solidify their positions within their market segments by developing PaaS environments for third-party ISVs.
For example, Salesforce launched Force.com, a PaaS offering built to support its SaaS service; then bought Heroku in order to provide a more open PaaS service. The company claims 200,000 apps built on the Force.com platform.
"We're adding developers daily," says Byron Sebastian, executive vice president of platforms at Salesforce. The hot area is mobile applications running in the public cloud, he says.
The hurdle Sebastian encounters when pushing PaaS into the enterprise is inertia. "We get a lot of pushback from folks who are just used to doing business the old way," Sebastian says.
A second segment of the PaaS market comprises general purpose development platforms that support multiple languages and cloud infrastructures, says Krishnan Subramanian, an independent industry analyst and blogger at www.cloudave.com.
And Subramanian believes VMware's CloudFoundry shouldn't be counted out, as the field shakes out over the next 18 to 24 months, because it espouses the open source approach popular with the developer set and cash-strapped start-up software companies.
But it's still very early in the game.
Forrester analysts John Rymer and Stefan Rein describe the PaaS market as sprawling, fast-changing, and very immature. There's little agreement on what comprises a PaaS in the first place, most PaaS vendors are small, some of the bigger ones have relatively immature products, and other major vendors like IBM, RedHat and Oracle have only recently entered the market.
Forrester divides the PaaS world into four categories, with some vendors competing in multiple segments.
In the largest group, software developers are allowed to use their current tools of choice locally and then push code out to the cloud. Playing in this segment are ActiveState, Appian, Force.com, Google, LongJump, Magic Software, Microsoft, NetSuit, OutSystems, Servoy, TIBCO, Vaakya, VMware, Wavemaker and WS02.
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