As we go into 2013, I keep thinking about the evolution of the Platform as a Service and wonder what is in store for this segment this year. As Platform Services are one of my core focus areas of research, I thought I will start off this year with a post on this topic. For the past year or so, I have been advocating the need to rethink PaaS offerings in order to fully take advantage of the big data paradigm. I use the term Intelligent Platforms to describe next generation platform services built around big data. In my opinion, we are going to see a pivot in the PaaS market where the focus will shift from the application development platforms focussed on scaling users and meeting the resource demands of large loads to building a robust platform to take advantage of vast amounts of data organizations have or going to acquire in the future.
Historically, platform as a service offerings were focussed on modern web applications that handle “smaller quantities” of data. In some cases, PaaS was used for applications that handle (or make use of) large volumes of data. But, in my opinion, most of these applications on these platforms were just scratching the surface. In reality, the PaaS offerings were not built to meet the needs of data hungry organizations. In 2012, PaaS vendors understood the changing needs of enterprises and were slowly starting to focus on the big data use cases. At the same time, we also saw the emergence of big data applications which were built on top of big data infrastructure platforms like Hadoop. As enterprises understand the full impact of big data and start building apps to take advantage of data (collected across the length and breadth of these organizations), they will really feel the need for more sophisticated platform services that run on top of big data infrastructure.
Vendors like Continuuity are trying to attack this problem. VMware’s CloudFoundry spinoff seems to be heading in this direction. In 2013, we are going to see the emergence of more such players and we will also see most of the existing PaaS vendor take steps to boost their platform services so that they are capable of supporting big data applications. Keep in mind that whatever we have seen so far with regards to “big data applications” are mostly focussed on analytics and visualization. What we are going to see in the future are set of services built on top of Intelligent Platforms that will go beyond simple analytics. We are going to see applications (services) that are self evolving and which can tweak itself based on the insights gleaned from various data sources (including the data these applications themselves produce). The underlying platform services needed to support such sophisticated services are going to be much more complex underneath than what we are seeing among the PaaS vendors today.
In short, 2013 will be the year when platform vendors are moving towards building platform services suitable for intelligent self evolving applications (services) of the future. All these services are going to be centered around data. Not just business and governments but the entire human society is going to rely on the data driven services with unprecedented complexity and automation underneath. The key for any vendor in the space is to build Intelligent Platforms that mask all these complexities and offer a simple interface for developers.
PS: The image in the blog post was a simplistic diagram I put forward to highlight the evolution from the current generation of PaaS to the next gen Intelligent Platforms.