Many industry observers agree that 2012 will be the year that the competition among Java platform as a service (PaaS) offerings begins to get fierce. For enterprises, the challenge will be choosing the right vendor for their needs in a volatile and rapidly changing market.
In 2011, a slew of companies both large and small made announcements about new Java PaaS offerings. "At the beginning of 2011, the only major player that was in the platform as a service market was Microsoft, and by the end, they were all in." stated Yefim V. Natis, VP distinguished analyst for Gartner.
While some of those new offerings have entered production, many will not become enterprise-ready until sometime later this year. "All of the announcements that occurred in 2011 will lead to compelling new products from powerhouse middleware vendors like IBM, Oracle, TIBCO, Red Hat, VMware, and Progress in 2012," predicted IDC's Stephen D. Hendrick, group vice president for application development and deployment research.
How will this competition affect enterprise application developers? Experts point to four trends in the Java PaaS space that enterprises should watch in the coming year.
Trend One: Big Tech Vendors Enter the Market
Most experts don't expect a lot of new vendors to announce Java PaaS offerings this year. After all, most of the large tech vendors have already announced their plans. "Is there anyone left that hasn't announced yet?" laughed Jesper Joergensen, senior director product management for platform at Salesforce.com.
Instead, Steve Harris, senior vice president of products for CloudBees, predicted, "What you will see is much more platform as a service in general, and you'll see some of the ones that were announced go into production."
That leaves enterprises facing a big choice: should they wait for the newly announced Java PaaS offerings from the tech giants or should they jump in with one of the Java PaaS offerings that are available now, mostly through smaller vendors.
"Some users, if they're not in a hurry, might just wait for them to mature," said Gartner's Natis. "Many users feel safer working with the proven, large providers." On the other hand, he added, "Some buyers will prefer a smaller provider that's more responsive to them, that's more agile, that is innovating faster." He added that enterprises concerned about portability and vendor lock-in may also want to consider one of the smaller Java PaaS vendors.
Trend Two: PaaS Goes Mainstream
While many enterprises have experimented with software as a service (SaaS) or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), they have been slow to jump on board with PaaS. However, analysts believe that will soon change. Forrester vice president and principal analyst John Rymer has predicted PaaS will "cross the chasm" into mainstream status between 2012 and 2014. And analysts at Gartner have forecasted that by 2015, a majority of enterprises will rely on PaaS either directly or indirectly to run business-critical software in the cloud.
PaaS vendors have reported an uptick in interest as well. Joergensen said that on Salesforce.com's Heroku, "We've had explosive growth in the number of applications that are hosted on our platform. We went from less than 100,000 at the beginning of last year, and we have more than 800,000 applications now hosted on our platform."
For enterprises, the takeaway is that their competitors are going to be investigating and investing in PaaS. If they want to keep up, they'll need to do the same.