Pivot with PaaS: How PaaS Will Help Your Business Survive and Thrive

May 22, 2014 Cate Zovod

featured-paas-openFor many businesses, the digital age has been disruptive. Many companies that were household names in 2000, have quickly become just a memory. Consider Blockbuster, Kodak, Borders, and Circuit City—erstwhile market leaders who weren’t prepared to take advantage of disruptive forces in how their products were purchased and consumed.

Why did they fail? They failed to differentiate themselves to customers, and to spot the next opportunity to add value. Simply put, they failed to pivot.

The Power of Being Agile

In contrast, some companies are proving they know how to pivot. When Garmin, the first major GPS provider for consumers, started to see free GPS-based mapping technologies delivered with smart phones, it knew the company was at a crossroads. It decided to make a major shift from navigation devices for cars to lifestyle sports and activities products. To do so, it had to build and bring to market new products, and engage with a new customer base, quickly and reliably. It made enhancements to its underlying application platform to facilitate new traffic volumes and spikes from new campaigns, rearchitecting fundamental systems and processes mid-stream to do so. Agile is the new normal in the software-driven enterprise.

The topic of agility is always top-of-mind at Pivotal. We talk a lot about the third platform, disruption, and the software-driven enterprise. We are proud members of the SoLoMoClo tribe. Our battle cry is Marc Andreessen’s quote that “Software is eating the world.”

This is not because software is just the next big thing. Denial of this business trend is literally an existential threat to our customers. Our vision to help companies pivot and capitalize on emerging trends leads ultimately to a new platform.

Building the Case for the Next Platform

The companies that are poised to succeed have or will explore a range of requirements that will help discover new opportunities, and streamline the process of building and deploying them into software quickly. These companies will look at increasing analytics horsepower, rethinking application development processes, and enhancing system reliability and availability with new storage and hosting options. In many cases, these fundamental transformations will start with projects. Companies will create defined sandboxes to develop and test new analytics models, features or applications.
These projects will drive strategic decisions:

  • Public vs. private vs. hybrid cloud
  • Packaged applications vs. SaaS vs. custom development
  • In-house vs. outsourced vs. hybrid development
  • Waterfall vs. agile development processes
  • Enterprise data warehouse vs. Hadoop substrate vs. both
  • Batch vs. real- or near-real-time analytics
  • IaaS vs. PaaS

In many cases, the right answer is likely “D: All of the above”, as defined by use case.

PaaS to Pivot

The right Platform-as-a-Service supports an evolutionary approach. It allows you to create an organization flexible enough to accommodate the often side-by-side permutations of the above. Abstracting infrastructure such as operating systems, application servers, data management, cloud deployment and developer tools, and provisioning each of these as a standard menu of “click to add” services, gives developers and architects alike a new level of flexibility, while ensuring consistency with approved toolsets and frameworks. The right PaaS is also an insurance policy. As your enterprise grows and changes, PaaS provides an on- and off-premise compatible set of services, with cloud portability to support a new generation of hybrid applications that meet your requirements for data storage, compliance, privacy and security.

Your biggest decision is not, “Agile or waterfall?” or “Which Hadoop distribution platform should I use?” or even “Do I need PaaS when I already have IaaS?” The question to ask is how do I drive value from my investments now, and make sure what I decide today sets me up to build on that value in an uncertain future?

For example, one large retirement funds management firm found themselves unable to accurately predict customer churn. By increasing the number of customer data points evaluated from two to over 200 from internal and external sources, they were able to identify at the individual level whom was likely to withdraw his/her funds, and what kinds of retention programs he/she might best respond to. As a result, their customer retention improved, and they are expanding their investment in data capture, storage, analytics and science.

For the leading provider of real estate data, analytics and transaction services, Pivotal Cloud Foundry is the technical constant that has allowed them to absorb the different tech stacks they have ingested as they grew through over 30 acquisitions in the last 15 years. By choosing to focus on integrating and standardizing on best of breed toolsets, they now have a PaaS on which to build new products and services without having to manage different legacy platforms and technologies.

At Pivotal, we are successful when our customers can say:

  • We learn from our customer’s behavior and adapt our applications to better meet their needs.
  • We do this quickly and reliably, at scale. Pivotal customer China Railway supports 40,000 website visits per second, selling tickets for 3.6 Billion trips with sub-second response times.
  • We separate the concerns of development and operations, freeing creative cycles and allowing each to focus on what they do well.
  • We try new things, without being hamstrung by the fear of overhead, cost, and time sunk.

At the end of this transformative journey, if all you are left with is a bigger Hadoop cluster and middleware to streamline deployment, you haven’t put the platform to work in the service of real innovation, and we haven’t been a good partner in helping you leverage software to disrupt your market. Instead, as you make these changes, your ability to execute should catch up with your capacity to generate new ideas.

PaaS supports an “All of the above” approach to change management. Aside from the well-trod ground of automating key configuration and deployment operations for speed and consistency, PaaS is the answer to the following questions:

  • How do I make agile development practices bear the most fruit?
  • How do I operationalize my data in applications?
  • How do I hedge my bets against cloud vendor lock in?

PaaS is a great starting place in your race to innovate, because it is the foundation for agile development and continuous deployment. But there is no wrong starting place. The only wrong choice would be not to start at all; the stakes are too high for inaction.


Further Reading

  • This post explored what a mature enterprise PaaS looks like, how it supports rapid iteration, and why you need it.
  • We have also written a white paper called “PaaS: Open for Business” on how becoming a great software company starts with the right platform. Check it out here.

About the Author


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