Tech Spheres

Discussion of Web 2.0 Business Strategies (SaaS, PaaS, Strategy, Enterprise, Small Business, Flex)

What ‘flavor’ is your PaaS?

Posted by Alex Chriss on November 9, 2008

This afternoon I was reading Dion Hinchcliffe’s great post on Building Modern Web Apps, and different product delivery models.  It struck me that choosing the right Platform-as-a-service could be considered a component to your product delivery choice.  So I did a little digging and found Tim O’Reilly ask whether there were advantages in choosing different PaaS options.  Well, yes, I think there are big choices to be made in choosing  where to build your next web app. 

Simply put, as a developer, you have a choice in “flavors” – (“PaaS flavors” as a term lifted from a panel presentation Allistair Croll did at Web 2.0)

There seem to me to be three flavors of PaaS:

1)      Pure platform – The tools needed to develop and host an app (Bungee, Google App Engine) [Monetization is likely exclusively through usage fees]

2)      App-centric platform – The same as above but focused around a specific application (i.e. Force.com) – Advantage is that you can leverage an anchor tenant’s data and customer base to sell your app. Disadvantage is that you’re tied to the anchor tenant – for good & bad [Monetization through selling more of your anchor tenant, usage fees, and/or rev share]

3)      Market-centric platform – Pure platform but with a specific market focus (i.e. Intuit Partner Platform – IPP) – Advantage exists only if the platform has durable advantages the developer can leverage in the market (i.e. brand, data, customers, channel) [Monetization through usage & rev share]

 There are also different components that make up a “platform” and the importance of those components differ based on the flavor of the platform.  For a pure platform, an end-to-end solution for developers is critical – otherwise there is very little value. 

 For an App-centric platform, having a developer build an app that ties directly to their anchor tenant – extending its value – is critical – The more apps, the stronger the anchor tenant becomes.

 For a market-centric platform, the real value to developers is in the durable advantages – so some of the specific components can be “optional.”  If developers prefer to build their app on a Pure-platform, that’s fine, as long as they expand the value of the market (note: network effect) – in this case, you lose utility charges but still have revenue share

The flavors of PaaS overlap and there are offerings that try to be multiple flavors, but I wonder if you always default to your core?  Force.com is trying to be all three, but will it always default to its core app-centric model?  IPP is also try to be all three – as it matures, it will be interesting to see where its true core is.

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