Disaggregation: Why “Breaking Up” is How Enterprises and Developers are Falling for the Next Evolution of PaaS - Cisco Investments

Breaking up is hard to do, but if it’s concerning PaaS and meeting the growing needs of enterprises and their developers, breaking up—or disaggregation—is exactly what should happen.

Consider this: companies have traditionally turned to PaaS for enabling rapid development and deployment of cloud-native applications. However, the speed and simplicity of deployment came at a cost. Many of these platforms are monolithic or opinionated, meaning they have implementation restrictions. Professional developers could only develop specific types of applications with specified technology choices depending on the PaaS provider.

Then came a new kid to the block: container-as-a-service, commonly referred to as CaaS. Like PaaS, CaaS enables rapid deployment of applications. The difference—and strength—of CaaS is that it doesn’t have to come with an opinionated set of tools for development. Working in a traditional PaaS, developers are limited to that specific platform’s restrictions for development. However, CaaS enables developers with the flexibility to develop and deploy applications on their terms without worrying about infrastructure details or operational requirements. In other words, CaaS allows devs and service providers do what they do best: develop high-quality software and deliver these applications quickly and robustly.

Think of CaaS as a new cloud operations layer that’s a combination of PaaS and IaaS. The rise of containers is fueling the “break up”—or disaggregation—of traditional PaaS and its implementation restrictions, thus creating the next generation of PaaS.

Let’s take a look at the momentum behind the disaggregation of PaaS: developer-driven needs, ease of development across environments, and adoption of Kubernetes.

Driven from the bottom-up—developers need agility and choice of best fit services

Over the years, PaaS technology has been adapting to the needs of professional developers by accelerating development of software created in standard programing language and handling complex problems such as application autoscaling and availability. Yet, developers want the flexibility to create an application with their choice of tools without being tied to platform-specific technologies. Disaggregation of PaaS, pioneered by public cloud providers, enables developers with choice in services.

Containers enable portability and ease of development across any environment – laptop to hybrid and multi-cloud environments

For enterprises, the pitch “one size fits all” is no longer appealing. It’s exactly the opposite of what they really want: flexibility. At the end of the day, enterprises need to be able to adapt to multiple environments in a timely fashion.

That desire is fueling the shift from a single cloud infrastructure toward adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud environments. This blended cloud landscape enables enterprises to launch various applications that scale their business. Enterprises shouldn’t confine themselves to one cloud because developers should be comfortable in making software on their terms and using the various clouds’ platform services to do that.

However, enterprises need more than just access to multi-cloud infrastructure to take advantage of these environments. That’s where containers come in. Containers enable applications to run across laptops, private clouds and public clouds. In other words, containers enable portability, which paves the way for container cluster manager tools to solve complex distributed computing problems. That’s why increase of multi-cloud environments and the rise of containers go hand in hand.

Wide adoption of Kubernetes provides an operational foundation for service delivery

Containers already have star power in the realm of cloud computing, but there’s a container orchestration technology that’s really changing the game: Kubernetes. As a Google-developed open source container management platform, Kubernetes surged in popularity because it can work in any cloud to manage clusters of containers, a critical need for enterprises with a multi-cloud and hybrid cloud infrastructure, and enables applications to scale up and down quickly and robustly. This handling of autoscaling and availability is one of the reasons that enterprises went to “Big P” opinionated PaaS to begin with! Kubernetes neatly separates that portion of the value prop into an operational foundation for service delivery. Judging by its high adoption rate among tech companies of all sizes as well as its large open source community, the future of Kubernetes looks bright, and we expect to see more platform services built on this foundation.

How will disaggregation of PaaS affect IT professionals? For starters, it frees up IT professionals to provide technologies that their developer customers are looking for without having to deal with some of the most complex distributed computing problems that are part of elastic service management. IT professionals can then think about how to help developers maintain consistency in usability experience and security with CaaS, along with accommodating enterprise and business end goals.


About the author: Tina Nolte is responsible for Cisco’s investment and acquisition efforts in the Cloud space. She began her career as a consultant at McKinsey. After McKinsey she joined Cisco’s UCS Product Management team, leading their flagship management software efforts. Following Cisco, Tina has led product management at two cloud and data center infrastructure startups, Nebula and DriveScale, and led strategic initiatives in the Office of the CTO at Pure Storage.