Will AWS Chalice be the straw that broke Heroku?

A friend of mine sent me a link about a “serverless python microframework” called Chalice. Chalice is an offering from AWS labs, a public experiment of sorts. As I watched the youtube video, I thought “damn, AWS finally stepped into the PaaS world”.

Using Chalice is a incredibly straightforward. If you’re familiar with python development, then the slight variation on Flask will be almost immediately understood. Chalice itself settles into the niches within the plethora of AWS functionality that effectively make it a developer-driven command line develop, deploy and verify – all on the cloud stack, and without having to mess with much configuration: exactly the win that PaaS provides. It is AWS’ first serious step into the space where Google App Engine, Heroku, CloudFoundry, and OpenShift have been slowly building up and competing.

I look at Heroku (which runs on AWS) and how they developed their business model. Heroku will be sticky for a while, but I’ve got to imagine that if AWS wants to play that game and grab that segment of the hosted PaaS market, Heroku is going to be working double time differentiate themselves and keep their market. Google has their infrastructure to back them up, and frankly were first into this game. CloudFoundry and OpenShift aren’t fighting for the hosted market, but the enterprise marketplace. Heroku however, is a bit more out on a limb.

Heroku could play the game of better user experience. Without a doubt it is, already. It could bolster that with feature capabilities as well – more integrated solutions to drive out that “easier to develop and debug” space. But there is a problem there – where they could have expanded internally, they have already built a marketplace. New Relic, DataDog, and a flurry of other hosted solutions have all refined themselves in that marketplace, providing impressive services that will be hard to replicate. That is going to make it a lot harder for Heroku to use this for more “built-in” features to differentiate.

I’m sure this is just the opening shot in coming marketplace fight for hosted PaaS. Chalice is barely out of its diapers, but you can easily see where it can grow. The gang at Salesforce has a big fight on their hands…

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