The PaaS is not past

The PaaS is not past
Photo by Radowan Nakif Rehan / Unsplash

Today in Runtime's newsletter: How a new generation of startups wants to bring back the PaaS, the Amazon Prime Video post that launched 1,000 takes, and the latest funding rounds for enterprise tech startups.

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Platform shoes

As the complexity of running a software development team inside a modern enterprise has exploded, an overlooked segment of the cloud computing triangle has enjoyed a resurgence over the last year: The platform is having a moment.

Inside most enterprises, platform tools have remained stubbornly proprietary, compared to third-party infrastructure services and SaaS companies that are part of nearly every tech stack these days.

  • "You have this fine line you have to walk with PaaS, which is, if your platform is not very opinionated and isn't very feature rich, it's too little to be interesting (enough) for people that want to adopt it and use it," said Abby Kearns, former executive director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, an early open-source PaaS.
  • "And then you get the other end of the spectrum, where it's very feature rich and highly opinionated and does everything for you (but) the onboarding and the ramp time is really high."

But a new group of companies is strolling down that line with newer technologies and fresh approaches that focus on developer experience as enterprises grapple with the rise of complicated app deployment technologies like containers and Kubernetes.

  • Those companies — which include Deno, Fermyon,, Porter, Railway, Render, and Vercel, among others — are gaining converts by giving both developers and operations teams the Goldilocks amount of options they need to make this complex system work.
  • "The trick to being successful the next time around is going to be, can we draw the right line between what is developer responsibility and what is platform engineering responsibility?" said Matt Butcher, CEO of Fermyon.

Those arguing for building, rather than buying their platform tools, often cite their unique business or application requirements that one-size-fits-all products can't address.

  • While that may be true, that flexibility comes at a cost; once you build it, you have to maintain it, and even medium-size enterprises can find themselves managing multiple platform approaches across the entire company.
  • "One could argue that building your own cloud every time you have an application requirement was almost like a zero-interest rate phenomenon," said Guillermo Rauch, founder and CEO of Vercel.
  • "The number of tools and technologies, either open source or off the shelf, that you have to master and integrate together is way more substantive than it was 10 years ago," Kearns said.

New third-party platform tools and services look to meet customers where they are, allowing users to work with whatever programming language they prefer and deploy to whatever environment they choose.

  • "You can't come into an enterprise organization and say, 'we're going to ditch your authentication solution, we're going to ditch your commerce back end,'" Rauch said.
  • The newer approaches are built around slick user interfaces and click-to-deploy workflows, which flattens the onboarding time needed to learn a new system, Kearns said.
  • "Just because I have the headcount doesn't mean I have people that are intimately familiar with writing cloud-native applications and running them," she said.

Companies have been talking about adopting DevOps strategies for years in hopes of making their teams more productive, and newer tools might actually help them attain that goal.

  • "I think the trick to the next generation of PaaS is going to be, OK, if we're going to do it well, we have to understand what a platform engineering and DevOps role is and what they need to do day to day, and what the developers need to do,” Butcher said.

Read the full story on Runtime.

Like this story? Wish we'd taken a different approach? Email us your thoughts in 250 words or less to be considered for the "Letters to the Editor" section in Saturday's Runtime newsletter.

Priming the pump

A rather forthright blog post last week from Amazon's Prime Video team sparked an enormous amount of discussion over the weekend for an otherwise run-of-the-mill "how we built it" essay from a corporate engineering team. That's because it acknowledged a central truth about building modern applications on the cloud: Even inside Amazon, there's no single right way to do it.

The drama centered around Prime Video's decision to move off Lambda, the functions-as-a-service product that AWS has long upheld as the future of computing. Prime Video decided that a microservices architecture, which allows developers to break down application components into smaller pieces that operate independently, was too complex for its needs and reverted back to a good old-fashioned monolithic application.

"..the way we used some components caused us to hit a hard scaling limit at around 5% of the expected load. Also, the overall cost of all the building blocks was too high to accept the solution at a large scale," wrote Amazon's Marcin Kolny. Despite Twitter's decline among the enterprise tech set, the hot-take industry immediately labeled the post as an indictment of AWS's product strategy, and a management failure, assuming that AWS forced Prime Video to use Lambda under the "dogfooding" concept.

Cooler heads, belonging to folks inside and outside AWS, ultimately took most of the air out of the hottest reactions. But the positioning around Lambda — which Amazon CTO Werner Vogels was pitching as a cost-saver for greenfield enterprise-scale workloads just last summer — remains a little confusing in a world that has embraced containers as the atomic unit of the cloud.

Enterprise funding

Mavenir raised $100 million from existing investors to help telecoms — traditionally some of the last companies to embrace new enterprise tech trends — adopt its software-defined network technology.

Novidea raised $50 million in Series C funding to continue building out its vertical SaaS approach to the insurance industry.

Antimetal raised a $4.3 million seed funding round to marry two of enterprise tech's biggest friends right now: cloud-cost savings and AI.

(Announcing a new funding round? Email us to be considered for the Tuesday funding section.)

Around the enterprise

Twilio beat analyst expectations for revenue and earnings Tuesday but shares sank after it issued weaker guidance than expected and warned that business spending is still uncertain.

Call it "conscious unconverging": Nutanix announced it will offer dedicated nodes for compute and storage, the opposite of the "hyperconverged infrastructure" it rose to prominence selling.

IBM jumped on the generative AI bandwagon with Watsonx (not Watson+, unfortunately), a set of tools it says will give managers like the ones it plans to replace with AI new ways to manage their teams with AI.

Microsoft expanded the preview circle for Microsoft 365 Copilot and introduced a new way for users to find and analyze company data.

Not to be outdone, Google plans to introduce several new AI tools and services this week at Google I/O, according to CNBC, including the most up-to-date version of its large-language model.

Thanks for reading! See you Thursday!

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