Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Cloud Is Angry and Other Lessons From Gartner

I attended the Gartner Application Development Conference this week and drank from the proverbial firehouse as Gartner analysts presented their vision for cloud computing

Anthony Bradley, the Web 2.0 analyst for Gartner, beat the drum for front end tools (mashup builders) to complement back end SOA systems. His take was "mashups take the benefits of SOA and make them visible to users - mashups are the face of SOA."

Mark Driver, the open source software analyst for Gartner, said that cloud computing is early in its maturity cycle. He said, "if the cloud were a child, it would be an angry two year old. The challenge for the industry now is how to make it through the terrible twos."

Mark also pointed out some big benefits for IT with cloud computing. "The cloud enables rapid application maintenance - iterating application functionality on a daily basis." The apps can change as quickly as the business situation changes, making IT much more of a real partner in business change rather than an impediment to business change.

Mark introduced the idea of a cloud development platform or platform as a service (PaaS), noting that in PaaS, the developer should never encounter the concept of a server. Instead, the platform abstracts all deployment complexity from the developer, making it ideal for business unit developers who don't have deployment resources readily at hand.

According to Gartner, the important criteria for a cloud development platform include:
  • Interoperability: how well does the platform integrate with other web assets like open id and google maps?
  • Collaboration: how well does the platform support source code control and social programming (Facebook meets SVN)
  • RIA & mobile clients: cross browser and cross smart-phone support. According to Mark, reach wins over richness - supporting more browsers is more important than supporting more widgets.
  • Legacy: ability to integrate with enterprise data, security and web services
  • Performance: ability to scale significantly with no additional effort/programming
  • Longevity: the market momentum of the platform vendor - will they be around in 3 years? The winner will be less about the raw technology and more about the quality of partners and customers the vendor has attracted.
This is a particularly interesting list for us at WaveMaker, as we just released the WaveMaker cloud development platform that does quite well against Gartner's list. In particular, WaveMaker scores highly interoperability, both of component and of applications. WaveMaker is the first cloud development platform to offer portability between the cloud and the data center.

Gartner believes that the market for cloud development tools is very similar to the 4GL market of the early 90s. They see many innovative vendors today offering unique/proprietary solutions, thinning out over the next three years to a handful of winners. Naturally we are doing everything we can to make sure that WaveMaker is one of those winners!

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