Platform as a Service (PaaS) Fragmentation

You will find no shortage of cloud pundits around that will tell you that the Platform layer is the future of the cloud stack. The thought is that in the future we will be able to forget about the menial tasks of managing servers and just worry about developing applications. While a pleasant vision, let’s take a walk through the cold harsh reality.

In the PaaS space there is a big elephant in the room, it goes by the name fragmentation. Stop and think about it for a second, how many popular programming languages are there? How many popular frameworks does each one of those languages have? That's not to mention the hell that is versioning of both of those things.

Lets look at a quick example to illustrate this point. You’ve decided you want to create a platform, the first question is then what language you want your platform to support. After considering the options you decide on your language of choice. Depending on which part of the language release cycle you are in you are probably looking at a decent split between the current version, the previous version, and the experimental new version. Unless you get lucky in terms of timing or are particularly aggressive in deprecating versions, you are probably going to want to support all three versions. We see this exact trend in both the Ruby and Python worlds. Note that I haven’t even considered any alternative runtime implementations (e.g. Ruby Enterprise Edition, Python Unladen Swallow). Next is the choice of web framework(s). Almost every popular web programming language has a myriad of web frameworks to choose some. You have the most popular framework (Rails, Django), the minimal framework (Sinatra,, and a whole bunch of other long tail frameworks. Depending on the language you could easily be looking at 3-5 viable contenders for frameworks, not to mention versioning. I could keep going, but I think you get the point.

This ties into a recent Twitter conversion where @georgevhulme posed the question:

“Who will win the Paas battle next year, and become the dominate platform?”

In my opinion, the answer to this question is none. No single company will become the dominant platform in the next year, or even next five years for that matter. The PaaS space is simply too fragmented for any one company to own a substantial portion.


Post a Comment