CenturyLink’s recent acquisition of AppFog, a public PaaS vendor, speaks volumes about the contemporary state of the IaaS and PaaS space today. The acquisition is intended to enhance the portfolio of Savvis, the IaaS, colocation and managed hosting vendor that CenturyLink acquired in 2011. AppFog’s public cloud PaaS offering will be offered as part of the savvisdirect online channel. In addition, its platform will be used to deliver dedicated PaaS deployments for enterprise customers. AppFog CEO Lucas Carlson will join the CenturyLink team as Vice President, Cloud Evangelist at Savvis. The acquisition enables CenturyLink to differentiate itself from competitors such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless by offering an enterprise-grade public cloud Platform as a Service to complement its existing Infrastructure as a Service offering.
Key features of the AppFog platform include the following:
•AppFog’s PaaS platform boasts polyglot compatibility with Java, Python, Node, .Net, Ruby, PHP, MySQL, Mongo, Django, PostgreSQL and more
•AppFog’s platform enables customers to deploy application instances and infrastructures on public cloud platforms such as OpenStack, Amazon Web Services, HP Cloud Services and Rackspace
•AppFog manages data integrity and cleanliness issues specific to the migration of virtual machines from one cloud infrastructure to another. In an interview, CEO Lucas Carlson noted that the platform features the ability to transform a VMware virtual machine into a KVM instance preferred by OpenStack or an Amazon Web Services Machine Image.
•AppFog automates the scaling of applications by allowing developers to use a “sliding scale” that automatically resets the corresponding number of virtual servers and load balancers.
The larger significance of CenturyLink’s acquisition of AppFog, however, is the way in which it illustrates the increasing convergence of IaaS and PaaS offerings, and specifically, how IaaS vendors are actively seeking to diversify their portfolio by buying PaaS platforms in the event that—unlike Red Hat, for example—they lack the resources to build them. Public PaaS constitutes a notable feather in the cap of a large IaaS vendor whose customers desire the flexibility of deploying applications from a pre-fabricated technology stack as opposed to building one from scratch, particularly for the purpose of pilot projects. Separate from the dedicated PaaS revenue stream, IaaS vendors can expect spillage from customers that began as consumers of its PaaS platform, and subsequently decide to utilize its IaaS offering after becoming comfortable with the company’s customer support and activation infrastructure. Expect the industry’s largest IaaS vendors to continue to gobble up promising PaaS upstarts, as long as the PaaS in question can claim polyglot compatibility to some appreciable degree.
AppFog announced the acquisition of Nodester, the PaaS for Node.js, on Wednesday. Even though AppFog already supports Node.js on its PaaS platform, the acquisition brings Nodester developers into AppFog’s ecosystem and thereby gives them the ability to additionally code in Java, .NET, Python, PHP, Ruby, MySQL and PostgreSQL. The acquisition of Nodester also enables AppFog to use Nodester’s support of WebSocket to provide WebSocket technology to VMware’s Cloud Foundry. Nodester will operate as an independent service owned by AppFog until its WebSocket technology is integrated into AppFog’s PaaS infrastructure, at which point Nodester developers will enjoy full integration with all of AppFog’s polyglot support and functionality.
AppFog’s CEO Lucas Carlson commented on the acquisition by noting:
AppFog was incredibly impressed from day one with the market-leading community that Nodester has built. And now that Node is now tied with PHP for having the most number of applications running – so bringing our operational excellence and poly-infrastructure support to the loyal Nodester users; is a win for everyone.
Carlson’s reference to “poly-infrastructure support” takes note of AppFog’s ability to seamlessly deploy applications to multiple cloud providers, and from one cloud vendor to another, eliminating concerns of vendor lock-in. More so than anything else, the acquisition highlights the buzz around Node.js, as illustrated recently by Engine Yard’s commitment to support Node.js on its PaaS platform. While the PaaS space may witness a few more acquisitions in 2012, the landscape still remains sufficiently variegated that rapid consolidation is unlikely within the next year. But the trend marked by the rise of polyglot PaaS platforms is emerging with unmistakable precision. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
PaaS vendor AppFog announced that it joined the OpenStack community and made commitments to deeper levels of integration between its PaaS platform and OpenStack. AppFog promises to bring an “open PaaS offering to the OpenStack Community” that allows the AppFog PaaS platform to be integrated with and deployed on top of OpenStack installations from different vendors. AppFog CEO Lucas Carlsonwill characterized the company’s decision to join OpenStack as “bringing PaaS as a first class citizen to OpenStack.” AppFog joins lofty company in the club of PaaS vendors that have officially joined OpenStack with Red Hat, purveyor of the PaaS OpenShift, which it recently open-sourced under an Apache License 2. CumuLogic PaaS and CloudBees represent additional PaaS vendors that are part of the OpenStack community.
AppFog also revealed its decision to participate in Rackspace’s Next Generation program as a vendor that will integrate with Rackspace’s beta deployment of OpenStack. AppFog PaaS supports PHP, Python, Ruby, Java, Node.js and Perl. In addition to the multi-lingual PaaS AppFog, the company delivers PHP Fog, a niche PaaS dedicated to PHP. AppFog supports and contributes code to VMware’s open source project Cloud Foundry, meaning AppFog supports all of the languages and databases supported by Cloud Foundry. Tuesday’s announcement was particularly notable for its criticism of “massive cloud services vendors [that] seem to focus on squashing innovation, oppressing developers and keeping prices high in an effort to own the cloud” in an apparent swipe at Amazon Web Services. AppFog CEO Lucas Carlsonwill rendered his criticism of Amazon Web Services more explicit in an interview with GigaOM.
Just days after Citrix’s stunning decision to open-source its IaaS product CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation, and turn away from OpenStack as the core technology for its platform, PaaS vendor AppFog declared compatibility with CloudStack. According to AppFog’s press release, “AppFog completed a rigorous verification process to ensure compatibility with Citrix CloudStack™, providing confidence in joint solution compatibility.” The announcement enables CloudStack customers to additionally deploy PaaS AppFog on top of CloudStack’s IaaS platform and thereby increase the diversity of cloud deployments in relation to varying business needs. AppFog’s declaration of compatibility with CloudStack illustrates an increasing trend in the PaaS space marked by the utilization of IaaS platforms for PaaS offerings. The availability of Red Hat’s OpenShift on Amazon Web Services constitutes another case of the co-implication of PaaS and IaaS as does ActiveState’s recent deal to resell its “any language, any cloud, any stack” Stackato product on CloudSigma’s IaaS platform.