Any corporate application developer hoping to make the journey to the cloud with the help of a platform as a service (PaaS) implementation is wise to listen to those who have already ventured down that path.
Be prepared to clearly articulate where you want to go and why you want to go there to the decision makers in your company, advises Matt Fischer, vice president of the engineering services team at Bullhorn, a Boston-based maker of recruiting and staffing management software.
“There are going to be folks who might not be up to speed on what PaaS has to offer and they will loathe giving up that control,” Fischer says. In his case, Fischer alleviated those tensions by explaining that the engineers at his chosen PaaS provider, CloudBees (see case study), had more expertise setting up, running and scaling the underlying development environment than his software engineers did.
And you need to tap into that expertise to help you understand how your new applications are working on top of the PaaS, explains Brandon Jirousek, Web content coordinator for the Quicken Arena, the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team. Jirousek’s team contracted with PaaS vendor AppFog for the purposes of deploying web, ticket sales and social networking applications in the cloud on top of Amazon’s IaaS.
“Yes, we no longer have to manage our own servers in terms of security, patches and troubleshooting,” says Jirousek, but that didn’t translate into the team not wanting to understand what was happening when they did run into performance issues. Jirousek says AppFog’s support team readily recommended and helped them implement tools to assist the developers to more closely monitor the service should they need to.
Kamesh Pemmaraju, head of marketing for Cloud Technology Partners, a cloud computing consultancy, says developers should push back on PaaS vendors’ claims that coders will no longer have to worry at all about the underlying platform services.
“It’s a different skill set. No, you don’t have to be allocating the physical servers to make your application scale. But you do have to fully understand how your PaaS is making that happen in order to build a scalable application,” Pemmaraju says.
Think about best practices. “No, I mean you really have to think about them, because this stuff is too new to have any established best practice guidelines for you to refer to,” adds Raj Kushwaha, Global CIO at Zimmer, a leading global manufacturer of medical products such as orthopedic reconstructive tools, spinal and trauma devices and dental implants. Zimmer worked with SalesForce.com to rapidly roll out an interactive iPad application to the company’s sales team.