Check out this quick, 7 minute interview for Makara’s progress and some interesting commentary on who’s interested in cloud and PaaS right now.
Last week I ran into Issac Roth, CEO of Makara, and asked him to give a quick update on how his company, Makara, is doing with their PaaS platform. Over lunch at the Rackspace SaaS Summit we’d discussed Makara, the pros and cons of various public cloud providers (always a fun topic), and adoption of cloud technologies, esp., of course, PaaS. We get into some of that in the interview. Also, we talk about migrating applications to the cloud and the types of applications Makara sees being migrated.
While cloud computing has been focused on Infrastructure as a Service of late, in comparision, the layer right above IaaS, Platform as a Service, has only gotten slight attention. The idea of a PaaS is, in my own simplifications, to provide the frameworks, middleware, and other “stuff” built on-top of raw infrastructure needed to create and deliver applications. I don’t know about you, but I find applications slightly more interesting than servers, network gear, and storage.
As usual with these un-sponsored episodes, I haven’t spent time to clean up the transcript. If you see us saying something crazy, check the original audio first. There are time-codes where there were transcription problems.
Michael Coté: Well, hello everybody! Here we are at the Rackspace SaaS Summit and actually lovely San Antonio, next to Fiesta Texas. A nice amusement park afterwards we can go to. And I ran into to Issac here and I thought it would be a good time to catch up on Makara. So, why don’t you introduce yourself and Makara real quickly?
Issac Roth: Okay. Thanks, I’m Issac Roth and the company is Makara, I’ve a little logo here to show.
Michael Coté: And you guys used to be WebappVM?
Issac Roth: We used to be WebappVM.
Michael Coté: That’s right.
Issac Roth: And we changed our name, Makara is the — so the sky, the God of the sky in Hindu mythology rides on a platform called Makara. That’s where the name came from and Makara is for auto scaling and on-boarding Java and J2EE and PHP applications on to clouds, public and private clouds.
So if you have like an application written for J2EE or PHP or LAMP and you want to put it on a cloud for scalability or for development and test agility and you can use Makara to do that and instead of having sys admins do all the work and setup security and auto-scaling and monitoring and everything, Makara is just like a few clicks and it’ll do all that for you, so it’s a nice way to automate all that.
Michael Coté: An earlier, at lunch you were saying you guys run on like, what was it, 12 or 8 different platforms or something underneath?
Issac Roth: You got the number down. So we run on Amazon EC2, Rackspace Cloud, Terremark Cloud which is vCloud, Zen and Eucalyptus.
Michael Coté: And so, is the idea that you take existing, like, PHP and Java apps and move them into it or that you start afresh or that you start anew with it or like what’s the typical sort of way the application meets up with you guys?
Issac Roth: Either is good, but the typical way is people start with an application that they already have. So unlike — so Makara is pretty much a platform as a service, but unlike other platforms as a service where you would be expected to write an application to that new platform and then be locked into that platform.
You can, on Makara take an application that’s written to an existing platform like J2EE or JavaServer Faces or LAMP, it’s kind of a platform, it’s got a stack and it’s got a set of libraries and you can move that into the cloud and get the clouding benefits that you would want from a cloud like auto scaling, ease of use, migration across clouds, easy setup and tear down, new environments quickly and then we do some nice stuff around management, we have nice built-in monitoring.
Michael Coté: Right. And what are the kinds of, like, users and customers you guys are seeing nowadays? Like, what are the, kind of, workloads in applications that you guys are seeing build on top of –?
Issac Roth: We were joking before about work, we would like — if you’re at the hypervisor layer you think of a work load.
Michael Coté: That’s right.
Issac Roth: But yeah, we really service web developers, people that are writing web applications and it’s the kinds of applications we’re seeing our mobile apps, so people — if you write a mobile app that has nothing to do with a platform as a service, but it connects to something and that something is going to be a service running somewhere and that needs to be dynamically scaling, it needs to be elastic.
And if you don’t want to write it on some new fangled platform where you are tied into a vendor, but you want to write it on something you’re familiar with or some open source stack, may be Hibernate and Spring or something like that. We’re seeing a lot of those, so especially in the enterprise people are developing enterprise like mini-sites that are basically a web app.
Michael Coté: All right.
Issac Roth: It gives you partial functionality of the company’s web functionality. And so, that needs a service behind it and if your app becomes popular that service may need to scale. It may come and go or you may get hooked into something else and so that service layer. There is no real word for these like service layer, but that sort of service layer web API layer, people are using Makara for that.
Michael Coté: Right, right. And are there any interesting new types of customers you’re getting more involved with or what?
Issac Roth: Well, the one that maybe you wouldn’t think about is SaaS vendors. So we have a lot of companies that are — they have written software that they wrote in the day when you would install software in someone’s enterprise, in the data center, but now their customers are asking, “Hey! Can you provide this as a service,” but it wasn’t written in multi-tenant.
And so, rather than rewriting this application multi-tenant, you just have to run one for every customer. Well that becomes a little crazy, if you had to setup a server for every customer.
Michael Coté: Right.
Issac Roth: It would be untenable. But what you can do is use a cloud platform like Makara to orchestrate setting up virtual servers and you can even pack multiple customers on a single virtual server. And so that way these bugs are getting — that way you have an automation frame work around being able to offer a service, but for an application that was written single tenant it might be a little bit of a less modern architecture and so that’s pretty cool use case for us.
Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah; it’s sort of ISV transformation, if you will, right.
Issac Roth: Yes, like ISV exactly. ISV becomes transformed into a —
Michael Coté: Into a SaaS.
Issac Roth: Into a SaaS without rewriting the whole application.
Michael Coté: Yeah.
Issac Roth: But for, you know our segment, our niche there is that — it’s for web applications. It has to — it’s not — this isn’t going to work for something that’s based on FileMaker that’s like —
Michael Coté: Or Swing or something.
Issac Roth: Yeah, that’s like a fact —
Michael Coté: Right, right. Yeah.
Issac Roth: And then we were talking earlier about service providers and I think what’s interesting there is you know, web hosting is undergoing a transformation and the next generation of web hosting is really going to be PaaS.
And so, how does a service provider envision themselves in the cloud space and not competing with Amazon on price on this infrastructure, the service layer but offering something more like the hosting that they’re offering today. And I think that’s going to be platform as a service.
Michael Coté: Yeah. It’s sort of the need to climb up the stack from infrastructure and have something else too going on there.
Issac Roth: And if the hosting companies don’t do it, you know there is Azure and there is Google App Engine and stuff that’s going to come along and threatens to really disrupt that and take away that business and I think that the people who are hosting sites they’re expecting a higher level of service.
Michael Coté: Right.
Issac Roth: It’s not just I want to put some four-page website, you know, it wants to be interactive, it wants to have a mobile and developers are more sophisticated. They’re able to — because development tool kits are pretty easy now. You can create really neat applications, but those aren’t just web pages, those are like a whole app has to be deployed.
Michael Coté: All right.
Issac Roth: So you need something if you deploy that too that’ll scale it, that’ll take care of it, that’s not really a hosting site with cPanel anymore, that’s going to be a platform as a service.
Michael Coté: Yeah, yeah. No I think, I mean it’s interesting to get like the platform as a service take — because a lot of the cloud talk is infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure right and I mean I sort of feel like at some point we’ll be done with the infrastructure stuff and there is not really that much else you can do with it except save more money.
Issac Roth: Yeah.
Michael Coté: And so you got to start doing something interesting on top of it, and that’s where the applications come in. So yeah, it’s great, thanks for taking the time to go over that with us.
Issac Roth: Yeah, thanks for having me, it was fun.