The Time Is Now for Domain-Specific PaaS - John W. Verity, IT Software Community

A new breed of PaaS incorporates not just programming tools and software stacks, but also complete, proven business processes.

The notion of cloud-based services kicked off almost a decade ago with applications software being offered over the Web. The poster child for so-called Saas clearly was Later, Amazon led the way in on-demand infrastructure with its cloud-based storage and elastic computing services.

Now the PaaS game is afoot, though no particular provider stands out as a leader. And that may be because PaaS is going to be available in many different flavors, or forms. Many early offerings have focused on serving developers using a particular programming language.'s Heroku is a good example, having started out with PaaS specifically attuned to the Ruby on Rails market. It has since expanded to handle other popular languages, such as Clojure, Java, Python, and Scala.

Over time, I expect, we'll see PaaS offerings devoted to specific domains and proprietary sets of business processes. Instead of providing just a "raw" software stack that can be used to develop seemingly any kind of application, why not provide a stack that includes high-level, business-specific constructs? This would let an enterprise turn its own business processes and workflows into services that partners could build on to create their own service offerings.

The best example of this that I've run across so far is one that a middleware company called WSO2 has been talking about lately, albeit somewhat vaguely. Paul Fremantle, CTO and cofounder of WSO2, says he's not permitted to reveal customer names, but the situation in which his firm is involved goes something like this.

A certain company in Europe specializes in gambling -- or gaming, as it's called over there. This company has developed a range of systems that enable bettors to set up accounts, place bets, view changing odds, collect payoffs, and more. These systems also take into account the strict regulations and security measures that govern betting activity in specific countries.

Using WSO2's middleware, this company is creating a platform that other companies can use to enter the gaming business with their own highly customized offerings. For example, suppose a football team with a large following sees an opportunity in taking bets on its own games. This team could sign up to use the gaming company's platform, make use of the code repository it finds there, and build its own gaming application. This app would look and feel very much like the team's own, though, incorporating not only the right colors and brand images, but also proprietary business logic. Chances are, for example, that the team would want to make book only on certain of its games, not every game of the season involving every other team.

Use cases

What's more, this gaming PaaS would include a sandbox in which the team's developers could test their new code, taking into account all of the measures required by regulators before such a system is permitted to go live. In short, the PaaS would provide womb-to-tomb application lifecycle management.

Fremantle says this kind of horizontal PaaS, making domain-specific business processes available in the form of services, will likely catch on in two ways. Enterprises will use it to help departmental development teams get new apps built with less involvement from IT and to work closely with business partners in fleshing out services-based ecosystems.

Already, Fremantle tells me, mobile-oriented and even automobile-oriented PaaS offerings are showing up -- on certain drawing boards, at least. The automobile-oriented variety would offer app developers a host of ready-to-consume, car-specific APIs supplying everything from fresh traffic data to maps and the geographic locations of businesses.

It's an exciting time for developers working in the cloud. What kind of PaaS do you envision?

--John W. Verity, IT Software Community Source: