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Use of online services to let customers build applications without investing in all the hardware and software necessary to build it in their own data centers is clearly on the rise -- proof that saving money can be a strong motivator.
However, while more visible categories of services get the limelight today, that may be changing.
So-called platform-as-a-service (PaaS) revenues are likely to reach $707.4 million this calendar year, a big jump from $512.4 million last year, according to a leading researcher's latest report.
"Cloud [computing] has three technological aspects -- infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and finally software-as-a-service (SaaS)," Fabrizio Biscotti, research director at analyst firm Gartner, said in the report.
"While SaaS is the most developed aspect, PaaS is the least developed, and it is where we believe the battle between vendors is set to intensify," Biscotti said.
Additionally, although initial deployments focused primarily on application services, PaaS is becoming more sophisticated over time.
"The market has since expanded to encompass other middleware capabilities as a service, such as integration, process management, and portal and managed file transfers (MFTs)," the report said.
In fact, the low end of the portal, application server, and business process management markets are already seeing erosion due to increasingly mature PaaS offerings. In the not distant future, the upper ends of those markets will also come under threat.
That, in turn, will likely grow the application integration and middleware market by attracting customers that otherwise might choose to go with packaged applications and desktop productivity products.
However, market forces such as customers desire to keep platform capabilities in-house, and to choose best of breed PaaS services that reside in different data centers, will likely drive consolidation.
"Mainstream users of PaaS services will likely look for providers that deliver comprehensive and integrated PaaS functionality suites -- forcing the specialist offerings to consolidate," Yefim Natis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said in the report.
PaaS will mature in steps over the next few years.
"Around 2013, PaaS functionalities will consolidate around specific usage scenarios, paving the way for integrated comprehensive PaaS offerings to emerge from 2015 and beyond," the report said.
The report is entitled, "Forecast: Platform as a Service, Worldwide, 2010-2015, 3Q11 Update."