Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Rise of Platform as a Service

I have some pretty exciting news. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about moving beyond Assembly language web development, mentioning some of the new technologies playing in the Platform as a Service (PaaS) space. In particular, I wrote about Bungee Labs, who is doing some very exciting things to simplify development of highly-interactive web applications. Well, as it turns out, Bungee Labs and I both agreed that me working for them would be a good idea, and I am now employed by them.

First, the fine print: I am now an employee of Bungee Labs. However, this blog is mine, not Bungee Lab's. Therefore, anything I say on it is my own opinion and should never be taken as an official statement from Bungee Labs. Official statements from Bungee Lab can be found on our official Bungee Connect Developer Network blog.

The same day I received my employment offer at Bungee Labs, Google announced their App Engine beta. I have to admit, that set me back for a few minutes. Google is a huge player and not one that a small company can go head-to-head with and expect to win. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought that, either.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is actually a very good thing for Bungee Labs. How could the entry of the 800-pound gorilla into the PaaS space be a good thing for a small company like Bungee Labs? It is all about defining a market. As Eric Sink has pointed out many times, trying to go into a software market with no competition is incredibly challenging because you have to not only sell people that your solution is worth buying, but you also have to sell them that your solution solves a problem they really have. By having competition, you ensure that people already understand they have a problem, so you only have to worry about the first challenge (which is big enough as it is).

Google has now validated that Platform as a Service is a viable solution to the significant problem of building and managing the network infrastructure around an Internet business. Of course, Amazon's Infrastructure Services had already shown that. The thing that Google brings is the concept of building an application on top of somebody else's platform. That is what Bungee Labs has already been doing.

Obviously, if it were only about deploying an application on a grid managed by somebody else, Bungee Labs would be in trouble and I would still be at my last job. Google is taking care of the letting the market know that PaaS is truly a solution to a real problem they have; now Bungee Labs can focus on showing that we are the platform provider that makes most sense to use to solve that problem. That reduces the marketing overhead significantly and allows us to focus on technology to a greater extent.

In the near future, I'll give a new developer's perspective on the differences between Bungee Labs' and Google's development environments for their PaaS offerings. It is important to understand what you get and what you give up when choosing a PaaS provider.

After spending the last 18 months being several-to-many years behind the cutting-edge of web development, it is very nice to be back on the edge.

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