What Is PaaS?

A software developer using platform as a service (PaaS)Programmers want to focus on code – not on building and maintaining infrastructure. That’s why platform as a service (PaaS) is so incredibly popular. Offered via a cloud service provider’s hosted infrastructure, PaaS users are traditionally able to access a software development platform via a web browser. Easy access to a suite of development tools means programmers can program – and businesses can quickly deploy new applications.

It sounds like a win-win, but top talent with cloud computing skill sets and experience is still hard to find. Learning how to analyze, evaluate and design cloud computing solutions requires a fundamental understanding of the different components commonly used in cloud computing solutions.

Common types of cloud computing offerings include the following:

PaaS can take a company to the next level as it allows organizations to automate backend processes and provides the necessary building blocks to respond to demand. Read on to learn exactly what PaaS is, the benefits it offers an organization, the challenges it may present along with common examples and emerging tech.

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Platform as a Service (PaaS) Defined

PaaS is a cloud computing service that uses virtualization to offer an application-development platform to developers or organizations. This platform includes computing, memory, storage, database and other app development services. PaaS solutions can be used to develop software for internal use or offered for sale.

PaaS technology offers a company virtual infrastructure, such as data centers, servers, storage and network equipment, plus an intermediate layer of software, which includes tools for building apps. Of course, a user interface is also part of the package to provide usability.

Customers can deploy PaaS in one of three different cloud deployment models defined by the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST) as follows:

  • Private Cloud: The development platform is built on infrastructure that is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers. The infrastructure may be owned, managed and operated by the organization, a third party or some combination, and it may exist on or off premises.
  • Public Cloud: The development platform is built on infrastructure provisioned for use by multiple organizations (also known as a multi-tenant model). The infrastructure may be owned, managed and operated by a business, academic or government organization, or some combination. It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.
  • Hybrid Cloud: The development platform is built across both public cloud and private cloud. The two cloud models remain unique entities but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability. Hybrid cloud is rarely used for PaaS solutions.

Advantages of PaaS Technology

PaaS works well for small businesses and startup companies for two very basic reasons. First, it’s cost effective, allowing smaller organizations access to state-of-the-art resources without the big price tag. Most small firms have never been able to build robust development environments on premises, so PaaS provides a path for accelerating software development. Second, it allows companies to focus on what they specialize in without worrying about maintaining basic infrastructure.

Other advantages include the following:

  • Cost Effective: No need to purchase hardware or pay expenses during downtime
  • Time Savings: No need to spend time setting up/maintaining the core stack
  • Speed to Market: Speed up the creation of apps
  • Future-Proof: Access to state-of-the-art data center, hardware and operating systems
  • Increase Security: PaaS providers invest heavily in security technology and expertise
  • Dynamically Scale: Rapidly add capacity in peak times and scale down as needed
  • Custom Solutions: Operational tools in place so developers can create custom software
  • Flexibility: Allows employees to log in and work on applications from anywhere

Challenges of PaaS Technology

There are always two sides to every story. While it’s easy to make the case for PaaS, there’s bound to be some challenges as well. Some of these hurdles are simply the flip side of the positives and the nature of the beast. Others can be overcome with advanced planning and preparation.

Challenges may include the following:

  • Vendor Dependency: Very dependent upon the vendor’s capabilities
  • Risk of Lock-In: Customers may get locked into a language, interface or program they no longer need
  • Compatibility: Difficulties may arise if PaaS is used in conjunction with existing development platforms
  • Security Risks: While PaaS providers secure the infrastructure and platform, businesses are responsible for security of the applications they build

Read More About Cloud Security

Implementing PaaS Technology

Before making the decision to go live with a PaaS product, IT pros should plan ahead. For instance, making the switch to PaaS while in the middle of a large project could result in delays. Make sure you hit your deadlines by implementing PaaS in between launches.

Additionally, workflow changes are bound to happen. Once a PaaS product is deployed, IT pros are tasked with ensuring everyone is up to speed and understands the new process. Finally, maintaining a close relationship with your cloud provider is key for ongoing support, collaboration and communication.

Examples of Platform as a Service

Developing and testing apps in a hosted environment may be the most common use for PaaS, but it’s certainly not the only one. PaaS tools also allow businesses to analyze their data, access business process management (BPM) platforms, add communication features to applications and maintain databases.

As with other cloud computing offerings, using PaaS means that developers can get straight to the business of creating without worrying about the administration, maintenance and security issues.

Companies are using PaaS as they develop their own SaaS, as they migrate to the cloud and while creating cross-platform applications that can be used on any device. There are PaaS offerings for a variety of different programming languages. Popular PaaS providers include AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Microsoft Azure App Services, Google App Engine, IBM Cloud and Red Hat OpenShift.

  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk is a service for deploying and scaling web application and services developed with Java, NET, PHP, Node.js, Python, Ruby, Go and Docker on familiar services such as Apache, Nginx, Passenger and IIS.
  • Microsoft Azure App Services is designed by Microsoft for building, testing, deploying and managing applications and services through Microsoft-managed data centers.
  • Google App Engine provides web app developers and enterprises with access to Google’s scalable hosting and tier 1 internet service. The App Engine requires that apps be written in Java or Python, store data in Google BigTable and use the Google query language.
  • IBM Cloud blends its IaaS and PaaS services together more than other cloud providers, but services such as IBM Cloud Continuous Delivery and Tekton give developments the platform capabilities they need to quickly build and deploy applications.
  • Red Hat OpenShift is an open-source container-based platform focused on the private PaaS market. OpenShift provides developers with an integrated development environment for building and deploying Docker-formatted containers, with the target deployment platform being Kubernetes.

What’s the Difference Between PaaS vs. IaaS vs. SaaS

Platform as a service (PaaS) is essentially a layer between infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). While IaaS provides just the pay-as-you-go infrastructure for a company, PaaS steps it up by also providing a variety of tools needed to create applications. Meanwhile, SaaS is ready-to-use software that’s available via a third party over the internet. Most modern SaaS platforms are built on IaaS or PaaS platforms.

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The Future of PaaS

Technology is always evolving, and PaaS is no exception. Leading cloud service providers are starting to offer AI-platform-as-a-service (AIPaaS), which is a platform for delivering artificial intelligence (AI) applications. These could include pretrained machine learning models companies can use as-is or personalize with APIs for integrating specific AI capabilities into an application.

The fact is, cloud computing is simply becoming computing, and cloud-native design in new architecture is increasingly becoming the norm.

The future is exciting, and small businesses and new business across industries are able to plan for growth with PaaS. Without the burden of monitoring, maintaining and updating a development platform, you have the time and energy to focus on your core business.

Whether you’re looking to work in cloud computing or simply want to increase your knowledge on the subject, be sure to check out our other cloud computing resources.

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