In 2007 and 2008, as we started acquiring new customers on our freshly minted Apprenda PaaS, our customers verbalized what they liked, didn’t like, etc. We learned early on that .NET developers working in enterprise IT and for large ISVs absolutely LOVED our value prop (the ease of application deployment, automatic multi-tenancy, etc.), but simply couldn’t digest the public cloud form factor – mostly because of regulatory environment, performance, auditing compliance, or security concerns.
Some customers stated quite bluntly that “…we’d use Apprenda as our PaaS if we could run it internally as our datacenter operating layer. Do you license the IP as a software package?” As we started receiving this feedback, we needed to decide what we were going to do with the platform.
The value of PaaS is much more than just the outsourced hosting and deploying apps. In fact, the managed hosting of a public PaaS is the lowest value contributor in the ROI equation. PaaS value is primarily defined by the boost in agility and time to market, low friction application management, and in our case, the largest ROI value contribution is the ability to “inject” very high end architectures like multi-tenancy into standard web and SOA apps. None of this value had anything to do with outsourced hosting. Essentially, when our enterprise prospects said “we want your software, not your hosted service”, they were stating that the outsourced hosting was of little value to them, but that they saw tremendous value in the PaaS software layer.
Apprenda was at a crossroads; fundamentally we could have done one of three things:
- Ignore the feedback and simply offer the PaaS service. This would have been a terrible mismatch since our technology was built for large organizations but a public PaaS service was a form factor that was only interesting to small Web 2.0 companies.
- Offer a PaaS service and a license-driven software layer.
- Suspend the PaaS, focusing on becoming a product company, productizing the platform (MUCH, MUCH harder than it sounds) and licensing our PaaS layer.
We decided on option 3: to focus exclusively on being a PaaS software company that licenses our technology to enterprises so they can build private PaaS.
Why did we do this? We believe that:
- It’s very hard to be a service and a product business at the same time.
- In our estimation, the friction our early customers experienced would be projected into the broad market, kneecapping enterprise IT adoption of PaaS.
- We understand that the likely evolution of the PaaS software market means that we will be equipping service providers and hosters with our technology to run public PaaS instances of Apprenda. If we were operating our own service, we would be competing with our partners. There are crafty ways to try and get around this, but this sort of approach does not align with how Apprenda wishes to approach the market. We want conflict-free relationships with our customers and partners.
Given this decision, part of productization meant that we needed to give our prospects an easy way to use Apprenda – free and forever.
Almost two years ago, we released Apprenda Express as the world’s first downloadable PaaS and have had thousands of downloads. Even with our amazing installation model and prepackaged VMs, some developers just want to dive in and use the PaaS and not have to install and run it – either to trial our technology or as a way to run their own apps. In response to this, we have decided to run ApprendaCloud.com as our own public PaaS environment free of charge.
Our goal is to ensure that:
- Our enterprise and ISV developers have an easy way to try out Apprenda from a developer point of view without having to install and run a full blown PaaS instance
- Developers in our community have a place to deploy and run their own apps, free of charge.
Given my comments about not wanting to be in the service and product business and not building a conflict-laden partner model, it should be noted that this environment is not part of our revenue generating business. This should not be misinterpreted as a move to become a pure public PaaS. We are simply interested in helping our community try our technology and to have a guaranteed home for any Apprenda apps (sorry, no SLAs though;-)) This is very exciting for us, both because of what it means for customers as well as the nostalgic value in going full circle in the public PaaS space.
I’d like to welcome anyone interested to go ahead and try ApprendaCloud.com. Start deploying apps right from the developer portal or download our SDK and use the Apprenda Cloud Shell!