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Google fills the gap between IaaS and PaaS

Google wants to merge the worlds of IaaS and PaaS to create a single continuum of services for customers. It's likely a sign of things to come from all the major public cloud vendors as they look to cover their bases in the maturing market.

Google doesn't want its customers to think strictly about IaaS or PaaS when they look for cloud services -- a mindset other large-scale providers will likely build on as the cloud market matures.

Company officials have discussed the need to merge its infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) offerings at recent Google Cloud Platform developer roadshows. The company acknowledges more must be done to reach this goal, but it intends to eventually provide services for customers to easily move up and down the stack.

"We don't think there's platform as a service and infrastructure as a service," said Dan Belcher, a Google product manager, at a recent roadshow in Cambridge, Mass. "We really think about a continuum of the level of control and management that you want us to handle and that you'll handle yourself."

Developers choosing between infrastructure and platform services face too many tradeoffs, so there is still plenty of room to improve the ability to run workloads in the cloud and eliminate the either-or scenario, Belcher said.

"They're just stating the obvious," said David Linthicum, senior vice president with Cloud Technology Partners, a Boston-based consulting firm. "That's been the trend for the last three years and it's probably going to continue."

Infrastructure needs layers on top of it and developers need it to run applications, so binding them together is a no-brainer, Linthicum added.

"I don't see in the future we're going to be able to see where the one stops and the other starts," Linthicum said. "That's a good thing because they're bound together and they have a lot more value when they're working together."

With more enterprises moving to the cloud, they also want more than just infrastructure, according to Lydia Leong, a research vice president with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, Inc.

"Getting faster VMs was a great thing, but everyone is saying that now that we can do this, we want to be able to do all these other neat things, too," Leong said.

Google began offering managed virtual machines (VMs) in March, which it sees as a middle ground between Compute Engine and App Engine. Google also points to its Cloud Debugger and data pools as other tools to fill those gaps in service layers.

"I don't think the distinction will ever fully go away, but there will be things that will be more PaaS-like or more IaaS-like," Leong said. "There will certainly be things that defy easy categorization."

Managed VM almost fits that bill, as it is essentially a platform service, but with elements of IaaS, Leong said.

IaaS and PaaS lines blur

Google started with its platform service App Engine before expanding to infrastructure with Google Compute Engine. Microsoft also began its cloud operations with platform, while Amazon Web Services came from the opposite direction with its dominant infrastructure services. All three providers will eventually fill in the gaps between the two services, analysts said, though Amazon likely has the most to do to broaden its offerings.

It's convenient for Google to [blend IaaS and PaaS] because its first play in cloud was PaaS, according to Andrew Clay Shafer, senior director of technology at Pivotal.

"Those taxonomies were always flawed and ambiguous anyway," Shafer said. "It was sort of this conveniently constructed taxonomy that came off the software as a service meme."

Google's App Engine forced a paradigm that gives infinite scalability of Google but isn't necessarily that accessible to a developer, he said.

This is Google's attempt to articulate why it should be the default option for enterprise IT development, which is fine for developers willing to drink the Kool-Aid, said Carl Brooks, an analyst with New York-based 451 Research, LLC.

"They're trying to carve out a place for themselves as a unique way of pushing development forward," Brooks said. "That's fine, as long as you are fully onboard with the way Google sees software and modern app dev."

And while these shifts will attract a certain type of developer, it isn't something enterprises are clamoring for and it likely won't do much to draw in new customers, Brooks said.

"This is the cloud world bending over the enterprise and saying, 'Look at me. Look at what I can do,' and the enterprise looking up and saying, 'So what?'" Brooks said.

The company didn't disclose when it plans to reach its goal or what other tools are being considered, but officials acknowledge more must be done.

The move to seamless integration will likely come with pricing for bundled systems, Linthicum said. Providers also will have to resolve concerns about the benefits of using a platform service over using local systems and porting to the cloud.

"You've got to provide developers [with] an environment that is equal if not exceeding the stuff they have on-premises," Linthicum said.

And while big vendors try to cover all their bases, it could have a ripple effect on the rest of the industry, Leong said. Google's move will likely create another hurdle for smaller cloud providers to compete with big players, because they lack the finances to make the large-scale investments that these hyper-scale providers are making.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at

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