As standalone businesses, PaaS providers aren't cutting it

A recent Forrester survey about cloud usage reveals no surprise about the number one cloud for developers: Amazon Web Services, by a wide margin. Of the 106 developers surveyed, 71 percent said they'd used AWS to build custom apps.

Number two, however, did surprise me. Twenty-five percent of developers said they'd used Azure. I seldom hear from people who are using Azure and when I do, they usually aren't gushing about it. Google and tied for a close third, at 23 percent.

This is not good news for the startup PaaS providers that paved the way for the established vendors like Microsoft, Google and Salesforce to get into the market. Cloudbees, Heroku, Engine Yard and DotCloud were used by 6 percent or fewer of the developers surveyed.

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PaaS providers need to offer more than just one piece of the puzzle

There are a few reasons that the big guys are grabbing market share. One is that businesses are more comfortable going with the established names. Microsoft has a long history of serving enterprises. Google doesn't but it has credibility since essentially its entire business is online.

But that's not the most important reason. It's becoming increasingly clear that users don't want single purpose services. They don't want a standalone PaaS if they have to use a different service provider for other pieces of their app.

This is becoming apparent in the way that service providers have expanded their offerings. For instance, Azure isn't just a PaaS anymore. It offers infrastructure services and has even dipped its toe into the mobile backend as a service business. And AWS clearly isn't just an IaaS provider anymore. It has moved into PaaS territory with Elastic Beanstalk.

The Forrester survey reflected this demand too. When asked which cloud development platform options they prefer, 51 percent of respondents said "comprehensive." Forty one percent said "best of breed" and 9 percent said "no preference." It's not a huge difference between comprehensive and best of breed but does show a tendency to want it all from the same source.

This tendency gives the larger companies a leg up because they can afford to invest in developing an array of services while the startups often can't.

But some of the newest cloud service providers are taking notice of this trend and from the start are trying to offer more comprehensive services. I recently talked to a handful of backend as a service providers and heard from a few that are also offering PaaS, database services and storage. That meets the needs of their customers, who tend to be developers who are most interested in quickly and easily getting apps to market.

"BaaS is just a natural evolution from platform as a service," said Marc Weil, founder and CTO of Cloudmine, a BaaS provider.

Other BaaS providers, including Stackmob, Parse, FatFractal and Kinvey, also offer PaaS services. They may be well positioned. Forrester asked the developers what they are most likely to use the cloud services for, now and next year. The number one current response was internal web business apps. But next year the number one application scenario is mobile sites. That's not the same as mobile apps, which BaaS is used for. But it indicates that developers have mobile on the mind and that mobile apps might emerge on their agendas.

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