PaaS Predictions for 2016

Article written by cloud computing consultant, Barry Gold.

Often dwarfed by IaaS and SaaS services, platform as a service or PaaS is a category that has quietly been growing in scope and demand over the past couple of years. This category of cloud services offers customers a platform to develop and manage their own web applications, without any need to build the supporting infrastructure. So what comes next for PaaS? Here are a few predictions of what could happen over the next year.

Cloud services in 2016

To understand the position of PaaS among cloud computing trends as a whole this year, it helps to look at the bigger picture first. This year, leading cloud experts have made predictions showing that the whole field will grow and change in significant ways. For example, it's expected that an increasing number of enterprises will jump on the cloud bandwagon as a whole, with many businesses choosing to diversify their cloud strategy rather than rely on a single provider. So while a business may choose one vendor for their storage services, they may choose another for PaaS, which opens up the playing field.

Security is understandably another major issue facing cloud vendors this year. While in the past cloud computing has been treated as more of an IT outsourcing issue, this year as understanding grows of its potential security protocols will shift as well. Although businesses will still need to think about database and operating system security like with any traditional form of security, they will also need to think about new ways to address issues like securing perimeters and detecting intrusion from outside forces.

Rise in demand for DIY PaaS

Vendors like Pivotal that offer open source platforms have grown exponentially over the past year or two. These can be used by enterprises to solve problems or create unique apps for a single department. Major cloud service providers like Google and Microsoft also offer PaaS solutions that are able to integrate with their IaaS services, which can provide a good balance for enterprises who may need to have both types of systems available. So one of the first trends that looks set to continue over the next year is this integration between PaaS and IaaS, whether it's through major players who already offer both types of services, or through purely PaaS companies like Pivotal integrated with separate IaaS providers.

An increasing number of enterprises are also now interested in building their own PaaS platforms, and this is one area which is expected to grow rapidly in 2016. For businesses interested in creating something that doesn't quite fit into the neatly packaged box provided by existing platforms, the DIY approach can be intriguing. It allows companies to build something uniquely tailored to their own interests. This type of need is usually seen with larger corporations rather than small businesses, but the trend could trickle down. Larger enterprises are using platforms like Docker to build their PaaS, with the vendor then helping with issues such as security and networking.

Market value set for growth

According to research company Gartner Inc, it was estimated way back in 2012 that PaaS revenue would reach $2.9 billion by 2016, and really take off in this year. The figures have shown a steady growth in market value worldwide in line with this earlier prediction, and the next year shows no sign of this growth stopping. While PaaS may not be as evolved as IaaS and SaaS, it's growing in leaps and bounds with many major players now holding stakes in this market. Users of PaaS may choose to subscribe to a cloud provider, or build their own for private or public use. With the growth in demand for DIY, build-your-own PaaS, this is a viable option for small and midsize businesses. At the time of Gartner's predictions in 2012, the US held 42% of the PaaS market. Today, European and Asian economies have picked up a higher percentage of the market, showing that this type of technology and service is growing on a global level.

Factors driving demand

So why exactly will 2016 be the year that PaaS becomes a bigger part of cloud computing as a whole? It's helpful to take a closer look at the factors that could be driving this demand. From a business's perspective, when first accessing the cloud it's usually easiest to think about the overall infrastructure. This is why up to this point most businesses choose an IaaS provider like Nokia Networks or other big names for their telco cloud services. Once they get a handle of how the IaaS and overall cloud system works, they may feel like they want to have more control and greater agility. This is the point when businesses start looking at PaaS, generally. So according to some experts, one of the main reasons why enterprises are now turning to PaaS is that they have gone through the learning curve with IaaS already. They now want to jump into the cloud with a shorter time for their applications to reach the market, and PaaS helps enable this.

Another factor driving demand is the fact that many of the smaller PaaS players are being purchased and consolidated by larger cloud service providers; for example, HP was recently purchased by Stackato, and big names like IMB and Microsoft are looking for smaller companies to offer customers a diversified portfolio of services. This is another trend that is set to continue in 2016, as demand for PaaS grows.

Overall, PaaS can be seen as one of the major cloud computing trends this year. Demand has grown consistently since 2012, and has risen steeply just in the past 18 months alone. This could be due to numerous factors, including the fact that many enterprises now require greater agility than IaaS can give them. Another key trend is that many of the smaller vendors are joining forces or becoming consolidated with larger players, with names like Pivotal and Docker standing out in particular. Expect to see some big changes this year in the dominant names of this emerging market. 

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About the Author

Barry Gold - Cloud computing consultant

Barry is a freelance cloud computing trainer and prolific tech writer with a degree in information management from Arizona State University.