Parlez-vous PaaS?

Several years ago I visited Parfumerie Gallimard in Grasse, France. Grasse is famous as the perfume capital of the world and Gallimard is the 2nd oldest perfumery in the world. There I learnt about how the les nez (“noses”– the perfumers who compose perfumes with their fine-tuned olfactory senses) create new perfumes. The vocabulary used to describe perfumes have evolved over centuries. Lately, words used to describe types of PaaS (Platform as a Service) reminded me of Grasse and made me wonder about when we will get sophisticated in our description of PaaS, similar to how we came to be good at describing perfumes, wines, and steaks.

 Emerging PaaS vs. Mature SaaS/IaaS

Over the last decade we have come to terms with SaaS (Software as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). PaaS (loosely thought of as “middleware” in the cloud) however, is a newer phenomena, resulting from the maturing of its siblings, and is a raging topic of discussion. (Tap here to see more on its fit in the IT stack). The fact that PaaS is still maturing is evident from the episode below.

I was discussing PaaS with an esteemed colleague of mine. During the discussion, I commented that person A is working on “eye-PaaS”. She said person B is working on “eye-PaaS”. I was insistent on A, she on B. We moved on. I started writing on the board my thoughts on PaaS. When I wrote “iPaaS”, she said “IPaaS” (with capital “I”). We quickly realized that while I was talking about some full-bodied cabernet, she was referring to some fine textured pinot. Suffices it to say, we recognized our follies and carried on constructively, if not gamely.

Eye-PaaS or Aye-PaaS?

Today PaaS has so many flavours that it is indescribable. The vocabulary is catching up, or everyone is making up their vocabulary in an attempt to be understood; so much so that we have aPaaS, iPaaS, dbPaaS…resulting in [a-z]PaaS. Wait, it doesn’t stop there! We use APaaS, DPaaS, IPaaS…resulting in [A-Z]PaaS. What next? How about Italicized PaaS? Bolded PaaS? Helvetica PaaS? Should we say eye-PaaS or aye-PaaS? If aye-PaaS refers to middleware in the cloud, does nay-PaaS refer to on-premise (not cloud) middleware? Back in Grasse if they cared about PaaS, the noses would call it “ne PaaS”. So this rant comes full circle as I go from le nez to ne PaaS, completing the transgression from perfumes to technology and vocabulary to fonts, phoenetics & linguistics.

If you are still reading…it appears that the resulting state of PaaS currently looks like this:

PaaS Variants
Flavours: Perfumes and PaaS

The left is seemingly well understood, classified and documented; the right is in flux and is being crafted, not because we are intentionally trying to confuse the listener, but due to a re-mixing of functionality as we move parts of technology to the cloud while concurrently adding new functionality for the cloud.

Parlons-nous PaaS?

Do we speak PaaS? Yes, we do, but speaking is quite different from communicating, as is evident from the episode above. Over time we have found the right vocabulary to describe perfumes, wines, and steak. Let’s hope we find the right vocabulary to describe PaaS too – spicy PaaS, fruity PaaS, nutty-with-a-hint-of-tobacco PaaS, rare PaaS, medium-well PaaS, and so on – without having to carry a decoder ring to decipher what we are hearing. In a few years we may forget the faux-pas of our PaaS and live in paz. In the meantime, it is fine to confess that we do not speak PaaS well. Je ne parle pas PaaS.

Hari Harikrishnan

Hari Harikrishnan

Digital Business Transformer
As a digital business executive, Hari is passionate about creating and modernizing businesses by infusing data and technology in product and service portfolios. Hari has led businesses from startups to enterprise incubations to Fortune 100 business divisions.

Hari has commercialized numerous products and services in industries ranging from healthcare to high-tech to manufacturing. His career spans leadership roles in general management, product, marketing, services, and strategy.

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