10 most powerful PaaS companies

Platform-as-a-service is the least mature of the major cloud services categories. There are multiple types of PaaS, and vendors are playing in more than one sub-category, so it’s not easy to tell the players without a scorecard. Here are 10 companies that have emerged as leaders in the PaaS market.

Amazon Web Services
Just like Jack planting his magic beans in solid ground, Amazon has built its application runtime PaaS, Amazon Web Service (AWS) Elastic Beanstalk (now in beta), on the solid footing of the very popular Infrastructure as a Service platform, EC2. And while the retailer turned cloud provider doesn’t necessary have a loyal developer following, it’s continually rolling out new tools to entice them. So far the portfolio includes AWS Toolkit for Eclipse (a plug-in for the Eclipse Java Integrated Development Environment), AWS CloudFormation (a service that lets developers create and provision Amazon resources), several cloud-based database options and SDKs for Android and Apple mobile machines, ERuby, Java, PH and .Net.

LongJump
LongJump landed in the PaaS fray very early on in 2008. It has steadily added new features and developer-centric support to attract a customer following that the company says is 600 strong at this point. Long Jump’s biggest coup came in the form of an AT&T partnership announced last November in which the telco rolled out a simplified PaaS service geared toward tech savvy business folks that has the LongJump PaaS stack at its core. Forrester analyst Stefan Reid said this deal could pave the way for more licensing deals for the company.

Microsoft
There have been rumblings that Microsoft’s 2-year-old Azure PaaS play is not getting the traction the company had hoped. Microsoft’s PaaS portfolio includes the Windows Azure computing environment for applications and persistent storage for both structured and unstructured data; Windows Azure AppFabric a range of services that connects users and on-premises applications to cloud-hosted applications, manages authentication, and implements data management, and SQL Azure, a cloud database service. All Windows centric, of course, but analysts say that Microsoft is making noises about opening that up a bit. And they say you can’t discount the power Microsoft has in its army of .Net developers waiting in the wings to see what the cloud means for them.

IBM
IBM is a relatively late entry into the PaaS market as it only rolled out SmartCloud Application Services PaaS last October. But the company has long-standing ties to the corporate enterprise and this platform – based on the long-trusted WebSphere middleware — allows enterprises to build Java-based apps that can run in the public cloud, called IBM Smart Cloud Enterprise, or on premise. IBM is looking to keep their customers in a comfort zone while pushing them out to the cloud.

RedHat
Linux lovers are uniting behind the thought of an open source PaaS like RedHat’s OpenShift. And industry watchers are intrigued by the prospect of portable applications that can be pulled from one infrastructure platform whose fees or contingencies become arduous and easily placed on another one without breakage. It simply remains to be seen how big an ecosystem RedHat can build around OpenShift and how useful it will be corporate developers.

Cloud Foundry
Cloud Foundry is the open source PaaS that was spearheaded in early 2011 by VMware and around which the company plans to build a future commercial product. As with Red Hat’s initiative, VMware is attracting developers who want an open platform that lets them build in the language they want and run on the IaaS they like. According to company officials, the project is gaining significant traction because over 2,100 developers are actively following the changes in the open source code. Analysts have speculated that AppFog, a start-up already offering a comprehensive PaaS based on the Cloud Foundry code, is ripe for the picking should the commercial side of CloudFoundry need a boost.

Google
Google claims it’s got 200,000 developers building applications on top of its App Engine PaaS. That’s in spite of a rate hike that really got their base riled up back in the September, giving all kinds of fodder to competing products that claim to be both more open and more affordable. But Google doesn’t seem to be bothered and is forging ahead with an upgrade that supports a premium level of service in which customers will receive a 99.95 uptime service-level agreement.

CloudBees
CloudBees was first out of the gate with a Java-based PaaS that gave enterprises an easy way to move existing Java applications into the cloud. RUN@cloud is the application runtime side of the CloudBees’ PaaS story, providing traditional application server functionality for web, Java and Spring applications. CloudBees customers choose their underlying IaaS or private cloud. Applications running on RUN@cloud can be built using traditional Java EE development tools or using CloudBees’ second PaaS offering called, DEV@cloud. DEV@cloud is a cloud-based development, build and test environment. CloudBees’ power lies in its understanding that there are lots of sunk costs in existing Java applications from which enterprises are loath to walk away.

Engine Yard
Engine Yard is one of the leading PaaS players for Ruby on Rails and PHP developers. These two development languages are most often associated with cool, new greenfield applications running in the cloud. Engine yard, founded in 2006 and still privately held, has a client list that includes Nike, AOL, Apple, Disney, and MTV.

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