September 13, 2011, 6:25 PM — CIOs carry the tremendous responsibility of organizing their enterprise IT strategy to be cost effective, efficient and high quality. One of the most critically important components of enterprise IT has been applications. Worldwide, enterprise IT departments deploy and deliver third party applications to their end users and lines of business, and in many cases, build new custom applications from scratch that satisfy the business needs of end users that are otherwise unsatisfied by third party packages. Applications are the lingua franca of IT. In fact, a number of practices have evolved around the importance of the application, how they are built and how they are delivered. One of the most important is the practice of enterprise architecture. As the sea-change that is cloud computing washes over the industry, certain aspects of cloud that make their way into the enterprise as private cloud will move enterprise architecture from fairy-tale to reality. The most important of the cloud form factors for enterprise IT will be Platform as a Service (PaaS), deployed internally as a private PaaS.
PaaS is a software layer that typically stitches together networked resources including OS instances, database server instances, web server instances, and even load balancers into a single, shared logical hosting layer. Essentially, PaaS is best summarized as a data center OS. Application developers, rather than writing an application and tediously configuring that application to be deployed on some specific infrastructure, simply upload the application to the PaaS and seconds to minutes later, have it up and running. A far cry from the 60-90 days it might take to get the infrastructure to deploy an application in the enterprise IT setting. The PaaS takes on the responsibility of matching the various application components to the infrastructure, deploying those components, dynamically configuring them, and even providing tools for scaling and updating the application over time -- all the mundane tasks no one wants to do. More advanced PaaS offerings even offer advanced architecture patterns, frameworks, and platform services such as caching via APIs that guest applications can use.
For the past few years, two seemingly orthogonal trends, private cloud and enterprise architecture, have been on a collision course that would lead to the next era of enterprise IT. Enterprises have been looking to cloud architecture patterns for "what's next", while the cloud has provided new meaning to operating efficiency. Rather than evolving down independent paths, private cloud and enterprise architecture have converged to private PaaS.