Among enterprise experts and providers at this year’s NYC CloudExpo, I attended Deploycon 2012, the enterprise Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) conference organized by Rishidot Research earlier this month. While having already formed several opinions to share as a panelist, I still kept an open mind—I wanted to absorb all I could about this emerging space. I understand that PaaS represents a critical component of cloud computing, right alongside Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS, although a lesser-used acronym). PaaS providers offer both a computing platform and a stack, which enables developers to create software and deploy to a scalable, secure and easily managed hosting platform. It makes the process less costly for developers—they can circumvent the hassle and expense of acquiring the underlying hardware, software and hosting capabilities. Still, where does all this fit into our world? At Mashery, we lead our industry with the full package; a full-on platform strategy, a huge community of developers, cutting-edge technologies and operational expertise to manage the API program. By any measure, this is a whole lot more than commoditized tools and services. Still, understanding the potential and benefits of PaaS is important for our platform customers, and especially our community of 145,000 developers who build apps with Mashery-managed platform data. On the panel, known as “The Future of PaaS,” moderated by Alex Williams, I took in the diverse, and highly relevant, views of my fellow panelists. Keynote speaker Michael Hoskins, CTO of Pervasive, set the tone by describing PaaS as enabling software as we know it to end—expect applications to be more assembled than written. Suresh Sambandam, CEO of OrangeScape, made a distinction between PaaS for enterprises and PaaS for ISVs, but stressed that the model is far superior to the “app servers” and “middleware” of pre-cloud days. With simplification, he pointed out, the emphasis may gradually shift from easing the way for developers themselves to, in essence, enabling far more people to develop applications for themselves. Looking further ahead, Mike Soby, President of Cumulogic, outlined a future in which developers of Big Data apps will go to a Big Data PaaS providers, and the market will move to a more vertical model. This all seems likely to materialize, but from where I sit, there’s another great benefit PaaS providers can bring to the developer community working with Mashery’s managed platforms, at least in the short term. This has to do with the entire lifecycle of a given application. Many complex apps have to go through multiple stages: under development, first beta, a testing instance for QA, pre-production, full production, etc. A good PaaS environment offers the ability to manage multiple instances of a hosted app without needing to thoroughly review and re-deploy every time. This commoditizes the part of the process where it’s most needed, without compromising the unique creativity required at the core. It’s simplified app management that represents some of the best of what PaaS offers to developers for deploying apps. There are other issues and possible benefits here—for example, the multiple languages involved in some apps, which not every PaaS provider can handle (‘polyglot’ platform support was a hot topic at Deploycon, and even my fellow panelists disagreed on different aspects). But as we seek to make the app development and deployment process easier, PaaS providers clearly have a key role to play.