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Java PaaS: Benefits, challenges and advice for development teams

Debu Panda of BMC Software offers development teams advice on whether and when to adopt Java Platform as a Service.

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When it comes to Platform as a Service (PaaS), Debu Panda can cite plenty of benefits.

There is no standard for Java PaaS platforms, so lack of portability of applications between PaaS vendors is a big issue.

Debu Panda,
product management lead, BMC Software

"PaaS revolutionizes the way applications are built and deployed," said Panda, a product management lead at BMC Software, a Houston-based provider of business service management products. "It derives most of the benefits of cloud, such as no startup costs, utility pricing for the complete application infrastructure and elasticity."

PaaS also frees developers to focus on building applications without worrying about the underlying infrastructure or the costs of managing it.

But Panda also sees plenty of challenges -- especially in terms of Java PaaS. He highlighted a few in an interview before his presentation on Java PaaS at the recent JavaOne/Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco.

For starters: "There is no standard for Java PaaS platforms, so [lack of] portability of applications between PaaS vendors is a big issue," Panda said. "Also, there are still privacy and security issues surrounding applications and related data."

Not surprisingly, he continued, many Java developers remain confused about which Java PaaS platform to use. "The Java PaaS landscape is still emerging," he said. Panda declined to discuss specific Java PaaS providers or platforms before his presentation, but the increasingly crowded field includes Amazon Web Services Elastic Beanstalk, CloudBees, Cloud Foundry, CumuLogic, Google App Engine, Heroku Java, JBoss OpenShift, Jelastic, Microsoft Windows Azure SDK and Oracle WebLogic, among others.

In addition, Java PaaS offerings vary widely, Panda noted. For example, some come with full Java EE support, while others provide limited Web application programming interface support. "Some vendors tout private PaaS, whereas other vendors shun private PaaS completely," he said.

At the same time, many Java PaaS developers remain uncertain about whether and when to use Java PaaS for their applications. "There are several instances when Java PaaS does not make sense," Panda said. For example: "If you really care about data privacy and security issues for your application, and you want total control of the environment, then PaaS is not suitable."

He offered the following tips for development teams interested in using Java PaaS:

  • Start with the right focus. "Focus on solving business requirements," he said.
  • Look before you leap. Don't just jump onto yet another bandwagon. Spend the time necessary to determine whether Java PaaS really makes sense for your applications.
  • Take an app-centric approach. Look at your needs in terms of applications, rather than at the platform. Then, again, consider whether Java PaaS offers the best path for meeting those needs.
  • Look ahead. In other words, develop and build a platform that's genuinely portable. After all, Panda says, "the whole premise of Java is to write once and run anywhere."

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