Gaining and Maintaining Application Control in the Coming PaaS Era

Over the years a huge percentage of the custom application development being done by corporations has been outsourced to the channel. Whether it’s modernizing COBOL applications using developers in India or creating mobile computing applications by relying on the expertise of independent application development houses, the channel in many ways dominates application development these days.

With the rise of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings in the cloud, however, that independence is being threatened. In addition to being optimized for only one or two development languages, PaaS environments come with a lot of application management tools that ultimately serve to lock developers into a specific platform. Worse yet, it’s difficult to develop composite applications that span multiple clouds. Customers obviously need that capability because just about every application ever built is dependent on another for one service or another.

In an ideal world, the tools for managing the application development process in the cloud would be isolated from the deployment platforms where the applications run, and any of the services those applications needed to invoke would be available as a virtual instance for testing purposes.

The first of those two issues is being tackled by Collabnet, which unfurled today in the form of  a new development-as-a-service platform, dubbed CloudForge, that gives developers access to multiple development tools that allow them to create applications that with a single click can be deployed to public PaaS environments or private data centers.

Collabnet made its name providing application lifecycle management (ALM) management tools so the move to support multiple PaaS platforms is a natural extension of that capability. The real issue that Collabnet is trying to make sure that customers, and by extension the solution providers they rely on, maintain control over those application workloads in an era where it’s very easy to get locked into one cloud computing platform or another.

The second stumbling block to application development in the cloud is being taking on by Parasoft, which has created a framework for testing virtual instance of those services of remote services. Known as service virtualization, the core idea is to allow developers to build and test composite applications that are dependent on external services without having to actually invoke those services until the application was rolled into production. That critical because it allows solution providers to more easily build applications that span multiple cloud computing platforms.

As cloud computing evolves it’s clear that many customers are going to rely on solution providers to not only manage the application development process, but also increasingly to orchestrate the application workloads running across the cloud. That will require solution providers to master a wide range of new tools that go well beyond what many of them are familiar with in the enterprise today.

Many of those workloads may be discrete in the sense that they are written in one language. But for the most part they will all be composite in that they will need to invoke services written in a variety of languages that will be running on a range of different cloud types and sizes. That’s good news for solution providers in channel assuming, of course, they have the skills in place to capitalize on that opportunity.


Michael Vizard
Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight, Channel Insider and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.


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