“The idea of a Ferrari with lots of trunk space sounds great until you see what it actually looks like.”
Here at Apprenda we take a great pride in providing the best deploy-anywhere PaaS platform for the Windows and .NET stack. There are many things we don’t do (apologetically), but we do this *really* well.
We strongly believe that Windows and .NET deserve a dedicated best of breed solution because of the profound differences between Windows and non-Windows environments along with the large Windows install base. Now if you listen to the polyglot argument, you might walk away with the impression that they offer a super set of functionality when compared to best of breed solutions like Apprenda. The argument goes something like “we support ten frameworks, they support one – do you really want to run ten different PaaS environments?”. Polyglot may well be a good solution for a range of languages and frameworks (node, PHP, ruby etc.) which have much in common with respect to the underlying technology, ecosystem and developers. We don’t think you need a PaaS for every unique framework but we also don’t think you can staple “.NET support” to the existing polyglot solutions and claim it’s a first class citizen with a straight face.
So then, what specifically makes a solution the best of breed for Windows/.NET and how does that help you as a customer achieve your tactical and strategic goals? Let’s break this down into four major buckets:
1. Have a Close Partnership with Microsoft
It should be obvious but if you’re going to have a terrific solution on the Microsoft platform, it helps to partner closely with Microsoft. This ensures that your solution is well supported and well integrated with a range of Microsoft products. More importantly, it helps ensure that it’s aligned with Microsoft’s longer term strategy. One question I often get from customers is “How can I be sure that Microsoft isn’t going to build this or something competitive to this?”. This is a very valid and important question. First and foremost, we’re not in the business of competing with Microsoft. We don’t ever want to put our customers in a situation where they are forced to decide between competing offerings from Apprenda and Microsoft. By being closely partnered with Microsoft, we jointly work through future strategies and investments being made together. This allows us to align and compliment their offerings well in advance of a formal product release. Microsoft has always valued and needed partners to help bring its solutions to market so they are just as motivated as we are (Citrix is a great example partner). It also doesn’t hurt to have a bunch of former Microsoft folks working on the product! (As an aside, Apprenda will soon be available at various Microsoft MTC locations so look for that soon.)
2. Exploit and Enhance .NET Specific Application Constructs
By focusing squarely on .NET, Apprenda doesn’t just deploy and manage your applications – it actually makes them inherently better. When you upload your binaries to our platform, we know which pieces are IIS websites, which are WCF services and where your data will live (we also know how they are all connected by creating a rich application model automatically). Apprenda provides a runtime that actively turns your existing application into one that is highly available, elastic and even multi-tenant for SaaS enablement without code changes. We also provide a host of APIs and SDKs that make building cloud applications a breeze. In the end, you write a lot less code and get a better app – you won’t see these capabilities in polyglot solutions.
3. Close Ecosystem Engagement and Integration
Because of our close Microsoft partnership and our laser focus on the Microsoft stack, Apprenda is well integrated with the other products that are commonly used in Microsoft environments. That means System Center integration for management, that means Visual Studio integration for developer productivity, that means integration with the Microsoft Service Management Portal for service providers, that means support for Windows Azure IaaS offering for hybrid clouds (more on this later) etc.. It also means that we’ll provide the first and best support for future releases of these offerings along with Windows Server (Hyper-V, Active Directory, IIS, .NET framework etc.) and SQL Server.
We recently attended the Microsoft Worldwide Partner conference in Toronto. 16,000 Microsoft partners were there to collaborate with one another and Apprenda was the only Microsoft PaaS partner with a presence. We’re working closely with other top tier Microsoft ISV partners to provide customers with an integrated and tested comprehensive private cloud solution. While others might mock or predict the decline of .NET (which is of course as healthy as it’s ever been) we’re busy engaging with the legions of professional .NET developers to ensure that we’re best positioned to meet their needs now and in the future.
Ultimately, this level of community and ecosystem engagement means that you get the best platform for .NET applications and it works well with the other technologies you have or might be considering in the future.
4. Hybrid Cloud – Private and Public Symmetry
We believe that the end state for cloud computing will be a hybrid one. We’re committed to ensuring that Apprenda works well with a variety of vendors and cloud providers and you can run our PaaS on the infrastructure provider of your choice. With that said, Microsoft is actually uniquely positioned here. It’s the only company on the planet that has a significant platform footprint in the private cloud with Windows Server and the public cloud with Windows Azure. Apprenda helps customers seamlessly deploy and move applications between these environments by providing symmetry (you can watch the video of this in action here). Even if you’re not consuming public cloud in a meaningful way today, having this capability available is a great onramp should you choose to use it down the line. As Microsoft takes Azure technologies and begins baking them into Windows Server, Apprenda will ensure that we’re complimentary and able to help you take full advantage – not offer a competing or technically divergent alternative. Over the past twenty years, Windows Server has consistently delivered more and more value “out of the box”. As this trend continues, its allows ISVs like ourselves to innovate with higher value features as Microsoft provide more and more of the building blocks.
Best of Breed = Choice
One of the core benefits of cloud computing is that it provides customers with the flexibility to choose the best tools for the job from a variety of vendors (as long as you have APIs and a web-friendly interfaces from the solution). Proclaiming that you’re a “Technology/Vendor XYZ Shop” is a mid-nineties ideology which unnecessarily limits your choice and flexibility. It also turned out to be a fantasy because the world is becoming increasingly heterogeneous, not less. For clear evidence, look no further than the amazing specialization and best of breed innovation going on in the database space. When selecting a database, customers have gone from saying “we’re an Oracle shop” to “it depends on the problem and requirements”.
To wrap this up, it’s not hard for a vendor to hand wave and say we “we support .NET” or “we’re compatible with .NET”. If you have a significant investment in Microsoft applications and infrastructure, you probably want more than a ‘checkbox’ level of support. To get that, you’ll have to look past a lowest common denominator approach and ask the really hard questions.
For more on this, you can also check out this great new whitepaper we published recently.
P.S. Apprenda also works great with plenty of non-Microsoft solutions (including VMware’s virtualization stack). That’s a blog post for another day however.