PaaS winners and losers, so far, might surprise you

A report out from Gartner this week on the PaaS market makes one thing crystal clear: there is no guarantee that the traditional enterprise vendors will succeed in transitioning to becoming cloud service providers.

For some of the vendors in the report, Gartner includes a customer count, often provided by the vendor. Those numbers might surprise you.

losers_0.jpgImage credit: Flickr/skampy

Let’s start from the top. Gartner said that Salesforce “by far the largest provider in the enterprise aPaaS market.” Only Microsoft is in the same category. Gartner didn’t provide a customer count for either.

But it did say that Google has a whopping 30,000 paying customers, noting that many are small web innovators but that some large businesses like Snapchat and Khan Academy are among the users of Google App Engine.

Since Google is ranked behind Salesforce, it stands to reason that Salesforce has potentially many more customers than Google’s App Engine. Plus, given that Salesforce is widely used among large businesses, it makes sense that its user base could be quite a big larger than Google, which Gartner notes has a “limited reputation as an enterprise service provider.”

Where the Gartner report gets more interesting is among the vendors with fewer customers. That’s because some of them are very big names. For instance, Gartner wrote that IBM’s SCAS offering is estimated to have fewer than 50 customers worldwide. SAP, Gartner said, has fewer than 100 customers. Red Hat, which is front and center talking about its OpenShift offering, has “few paying customers,” according to Gartner.

Newer entrants to the market in some cases are doing better than their giant, established brethren. CloudControl, a German company serving the European market, says it has 400 paying customers. And Docker has 500 paying customers.

It’s also interesting to note which companies were not included at all in the report. Companies without generally available offerings, those that haven’t implemented “sufficient cloudiness” or those without a focus on enterprises weren’t included. That left out HP, which despite talking about its PaaS since 2012, still hasn’t released it to general availability. Pivotal also wasn’t included, probably because its November launch was after the July 31 deadline for inclusion in the report.

What should all of this tell you? Generally, that this is an immature market and it’s still anyone’s game. Just because you have a decades-long relationship with an established enterprise vendor doesn’t mean that vendor will be successful in the PaaS market.

It also means that you should make sure you understand your options for getting out in the event that your PaaS provider goes under or gets sold. An acquisition by a more established vendor isn’t a guarantee of future success. As Gartner writes in the report: “Acquisitions alone do not ensure success: First, the business model and the culture of vendors' operations must change to increase agility, openness and innovation — before the organization can deliver software that's innovative, open and agile.”

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t jump into PaaS. It offers real benefits for many users.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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