Saturday, October 03, 2009

In praise of vendor shipped AMI's and virtual machines

Roman Stanek is one of those guys who consistently gets things right and his point around AMIs and Virtual Machines not being SaaS is absolutely 100% spot on. These aren't SaaS solutions they are PaaS solutions and they do indeed leave a huge amount of work for the developer to do. Part of the problem is of course that the name Software as a Service is of course wrong its really Service as a Service that you are buying.

So that said I do disagree with him that shipping AMIs is just the same as shipping DVDs for one very very big reason

AMIs and Virtual Machines must run

This for me is a big leap forward from vendors as while it still means that I have to build my application I don't have to spend days or even weeks trying to install software that quite clearly has never been tested from the DVD or downloads that they have on the site. Some wonderful pieces I had in the past include
  • A software & hardware manufacturer whose software worked on competitors operating systems but not their own
  • A software vendor whose instructions for connecting their two products had never been tested... I know this as it did not work at all
  • Spending 2 weeks installing from DVDs and downloads from a vendor and eventually having them on-site trying to do it for themselves, failing and then "getting back to us" a week later with an installer than actually worked
  • A single software vendor whose two products that were required to work together required two differently patched versions of the Java runtime
  • A vendor whose installation DVD was missing some core jar files, which they denied at firt but the old "Class not found" exception was a bit of a give away
So I'd like to praise AMIs and vendor delivered virtual machines for the basic progress that at least now it is spectacularly hard for a vendor to ship a non-working image. It might be an ugly image with lots of hacky patches required, but at least they've had to do all that dirty work and not you.

So don't con yourself that you are doing SaaS, you aren't you are doing PaaS at best. But do rejoice in that vendors are at last forced to prove that the software runs before shipping to you. Having a vendor delivered AMI or virtual machine that doesn't run really would set a new low bar in the sorts of quality that they expect customers to put up with.

So I say hail this new move away from DVDs and towards images, because personally I'm sick and tired of debugging their installers.


William said...

I agree with the main point of the post. I disagree with a side issue: publishing an AMI has nothing to do with PaaS either. It doesn't matter how the system gets set up (installer, AMI, OVA...), if you have to manage it at the OS-and-above level after setup then it is not PaaS.

Steve Jones said...

I agree, hence why I said "PaaS at best" (emphasis added). It is feasible that someone could deliver a series of AMIs or virtual machines that could be a PaaS solution. This would mean that the scale-up/scale-down pieces and configuration were already done.... but I've certainly not see an example of that yet.

William said...

Not to mention that you AMI should also be self-patching. Agree that in theory that would then be getting close to PaaS in practice. Not holding my breath for this kind of self-managed AMIs anytime soon. But when I see it then I may stop rolling my eyes every time I hear "autonomic".