There is a big range of opinions on what PaaS means. Last week during the CloudExpo 2012, one of the representatives of the AT&T booth told me that they offer PaaS when I’ve mentioned that I’m an architect and a developer working to provide a cloud abstraction fabric. When I’ve asked him to elaborate, he explained that they provide a way to people to create some forms and workflows to collect customers’ data and aggregate it. When I’ve asked him about what development environment they support he looked at me like I was an idiot and said: “this is the whole beauty of it – no development or coding is required but if I need something extra, their smart support team will build it for me”. The explanation of their features reminded me of the Google Docs.
At this moment I felt I was talking to an alien from "Man in Black". I challenge the guy on the fact that their offering can’t be possibly called PaaS and that it’s closer rather to SaaS. The guy killed me with one simple statement: "we provide you a PLATFORM to build your forms, hence we provide a PLATFORM-as-a-Service".
This conversation represents a similar trend we had a couple of years ago when every vendor who was selling some type of virtualization was claiming an IaaS and cloud affiliation. This is exactly what is causing a huge confusion for the consumers and customers with what the cloud is and means, what it is for and what it can deliver.
I feel that there is a need for a good new dictionary definition that can coin and explain all the cloud-related taxonomy and can either clearly identify the boundaries between the realms or bring the new definitions to all these overlapping gray areas.
In my dictionary: PaaS is a realm for the developers only (no offense for the rest of the world). In this context I mean that PaaS is a systems that exposes a defined set of APIs for anyone who is willing to code new behavior and orchestrate new service and application on top of it. Only in this case it can be called platform.
I do agree that the word “platform” has a wider meaning but I’m looking to create a clear distinction in our verbal communications so we, between ourselves, will know what we’re talking about.