CenturyLink’s AppFog Acquisition And The Increasing Coupling of IaaS and PaaS

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.