With so many competing PaaS vendors on the market, along with so many IT managers and senior architects starting to seriously entertain the idea of moving a significant portion of the application lifecycle management process to the cloud, TheServerSide asked Sacha Labourey, the CEO of CloudBees, what three questions people should be asking themselves as they begin to look towards cloud adoption while trying to differentiate between the various cloud vendors.

Looking for software vs. looking for a service

"The first question to ask yourself" says Sacha Labourey, "is whether you are looking for a service or if you are actually just looking for some software."

It's a pretty simple question to both ask and answer, but it's an important one that will help create a clearer picture of what your actual needs are. If you're thinking that maybe you'd like to download some cloud based software, install it locally and build your own little private cloud then you're not really a potential PaaS client because, quite simply, you're not looking for a service.

Of course, if you're thinking about downloading some software and building your own local cloud you've really got to start asking yourself why. As Sacha puts it, "you wouldn't build your own, personal, nuclear powered generator in your backyard. These things work because they achieve economies of scale. You do it big and share the cost. That's what we do with a Platform as a Service." Sacha does admit that a private cloud might make sense as a company transitions to the cloud, but down the road it simply doesn't make sense in any form of fashion.

Comprehensive lifecycle coverage

The second question Sacha thinks you should be asking yourself is "what type of lifecycle coverage do you want from your PaaS provider?" Answering a question like this will help the individual come to a clearer conclusion about exactly what they are looking for from a cloud service, while at the same time helping them to differentiate between the various PaaS providers on the market.

Some cloud providers are simply clock cycle utilities where your applications are hosted and you simply pay for the resources consumed. And that's fine, because there are plenty of organizations out there that don't need anything more than low-cost hosting. But cloud providers have so much more to offer than just computing power as a utility, offering services that span the entire application lifecycle from the creation of an empty project in Eclipse to the management and monitoring of the application at runtime. All of the overhead of setting up and managing the various software components that do everything from source code management to pushing code to a particular staging server when all of the unit and regression tests have been passed successfully can be sourced out to your PaaS provider, relieving your development team of significant management and configuration headaches. Deciding the depth of services that you want and expect from your PaaS provider is not only important in helping you decided what type of service you need, but it also becomes an important set of points upon which you can use to differentiate between vendors.

Polyglot versus dedicated language platforms

The third point that Sacha makes is that you'll want to decide whether you feel more comfortable going with a PaaS provider that provides support for a variety of programming languages, or with a provider that dedicates themselves to just one.

The idea of a PaaS provider supporting everything from PHP to Ruby on Rails may sound compelling at first, but when a provider tries to service every platform under the sun, there's the danger that their depth of knowledge with any one technology might not be deep enough when complex problems begin to occur. When a provider dedicates themselves to one platform and one platform only, they're likely to have the talent on hand to deal with complicated issues and problems that others trying to cover a gambit of languages might not. It’s an important point for differentiating between PaaS providers.

Cloudbees: Addressing their own concerns

So how does CloudBees position themselves when addressing the criteria their CEO outlined above?

Well, first of all, they are a service provider, not a software company. Sure, they run software behind the scenes, but you don't download CloudBees, compile it and run it on a local server. CloudBees is, and always will be, delivered as a service.

Furthermore, CloudBees provides tools and services that cover the entire application lifecycle. From managing source code to deploying applications once all of the required tests have been passed, CloudBees professes that they can do it all.

And of course, CloudBees is dedicated to the Java platform, so any source that can be compiled into bytecode, which includes programs that might be written in alternative languages such as Scala and Clojure, can target the CloudBees platform. And of course, CloudBees has recruited some of the top minds in the Java industry, including Kohsuke Kawaguchi, the creator of Jenkins, so when customers approach the team with support issues, there's a team of talent that is ready to respond.

With more and more organizations looking to adopt the cloud, it's important to both know that you're ready while at the same time having the right set of criteria available with which to compare offerings. Thinking about these three important points outlined by CloudBees CEO Sacha Labourey is certainly a good way to start thinking about cloud and PaaS adoption.