Where has Byron Sebastian gone? Why has a relatively unsung Salesforce.com acquisition suddenly hit center stage? And what's it all got to do with cloud computing's least-publicized and most intriguing outcropping, platform-as-a-service (PaaS)?
These questions (and some answers) popped up last week, following news that Byron Sebastian, the former CEO of Heroku, the ground-breaking startup purchased by Salesforce.com in 2010, has resigned his executive post at Salesforce. He's changed his LinkedIn profile occupation to "olive farmer" and apparently fled the tech scene (at least for now).
Meanwhile, back at Salesforce, CEO Marc Benioff has been busy drawing attention to himself and his firm in the runup to the company's conference this week.
All this happened against the backdrop of analyst predictions that PaaS is on the rise. A new IDC report, for instance, states that PaaS will be the linchpin for a $100 billion market in public cloud services by 2016.
In a prepared statement about the report, IDC chief analyst makes the following prediction:
[P]latform as a service, which has had a slower-than-expected start in 2011 and 2012, will emerge as the strategic foundation for the cloud services marketplace.
A startling statement, but one that seems to be building credibility as enterprises get sold on the value of creating Web applications quickly and easily in the cloud, without having to be concerned with the underlying physical infrastructure.
Here's where Byron Sebastian comes in, as spokesman for Heroku, which was the first significant player in the PaaS space. During an interview with ReadWriteWeb's Scott M. Fulton earlier this year, Sebastian described the PaaS value proposition this way:
If you're a developer, what matters to you if you're thinking about computational power is the processes that are running in your processor... [W]e're able to give a huge amount of control back to the developer, and at the same time remove a lot of the overhead, because they don't have to deal with these concepts of servers - which are an artificial concept that gets in the way of the developer.
The ease of development offered by PaaS isn't just for geeks. For years, experts have noted that PaaS is deployed by many business end users as a way to speedily create their own databases, reporting tools, Web servers, and other enterprise apps. It makes the development process accessible to nearly any smart professional staffer.
For cloud providers, the issue of PaaS isn't whether but when -- and how. Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, for example, have added PaaS to their infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings. And IBM incorporates PaaS and IaaS in its PureSystems offering.
The disappearance of Byron Sebastian on the eve of a big cloud computing event (who said publicity stunt?), a chorus of prognostication from big-name analysts, and the momentum of enterprise Web applications -- all this puts PaaS in the spotlight, as enterprises begin to move toward more comprehensive use of cloud services.
— Mary Jander , Executive Editor, Internet Evolution