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Ingy döt Net, March 29, 2012
I've been using the Internet since the pre-browser times... circa the Gopher protocol. Admittedly, not the earliest of adopters, but still before at least one of my current coworkers was born. I've been active in writing and promoting Open Source since 2000. In that year I went North to help a little Canadian dot-com company who embraced everything Open. I left after less than a year, but ActiveState survived the bust, stabilized into a solid company supporting Open in the Enterprise, and more recently has raised its voice in the Cloud Computing arena.
Dark, Cloudy Skies
I've been watching the Cloud movement for a few years, and to be honest I'm not liking it overall. The Internet was designed to be a decentralized network of peers, where a little glitch (like say a nuclear war on continent X) could be routed around in a few microseconds. It held the promise of connecting every human to all shared knowledge. In those Gopher days (and for years after) monetization was not even on the table. If you have any hopes of the Internet remaining Free, watch this inspiring speech by Eben Moglen.
Cloud computing smacks of power grab. Offer the shiny candy of deployment-in-seconds, and build the biggest centralized user base that you can. Now you have a wealth of information and wallets to tap into. Not only that, so does anyone who attacks your systems. Oops. Not possible on your system? BS. Any server cluster on the Internet can be cracked, and bigger clusters make bigger targets. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. Even more disturbing, thanks to the Patriot Act, any server under American jurisdiction can be accessed (by subpoena) through the front door. We live in scary times.
PaaS it On
Last Summer I ran into an old ActiveState coworker from my past. He gave a short talk on what ActiveState was doing in the Cloud. I tuned out. I was annoyed. ActiveState always did the right things. Why the Cloud nonsense? I found him later in the hallway and tried to poke fun at him for ActiveState jumping on the Cloud bandwagon. When he showed me that they were doing Private PaaS, I saw the light. Decentralized Shiny Candy! I was on-board. I got myself hired back by the end of the day.
Oxymorons (minus the Oxy)
Since returning to ActiveState I have worked hard to help get a solid Enterprise-ready Private PaaS solution out the door. It's called Stackato, and it went 1.0 last month. Yes, you can deploy apps in all the popular languages and frameworks in seconds. The difference is that it can live anywhere you see fit: your laptop, your data center, EC2... It's up to you.
What if you could have all of, say, Heroku running behind your own firewalls and under the control of your own IT dept? That's Stackato. Your company's developers all have the same instant gratification of deployment, but your CTO has the peace of mind that nothing has left the building. This is the future, and I actually want to live in it!
In recent months there has been vocal opposition (albeit without much substance) to Private PaaS. "If it's private then it's not up in the Cloud". Given that "Cloud" seems to mean about anything people want it to, this could be a valid argument, or it could be total BS. Let's try both:
If Cloud means that the Internet needs to be hosted in very large, centralized server locations, then sure, Private PaaS is an Oxymoron.
If Cloud means the clean abstraction of modern computing into IaaS and PaaS, then asserting that those abstractions must be conflated is simply Moronic.
Now your IT department can click 2 buttons: which PaaS to use and which IaaS it lives on. IT can happily give their users the convenience they deserve, without throwing away every other concern into the vapor.