Learn more about the benefits of platform as a service (PaaS) and why it’s a springboard for innovation.
Enterprise Account Executive
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions offer companies an environment to build applications without provisioning or managing infrastructure. It is one of the three main models of cloud-based service, the other two being infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
When looking at the level of abstraction, PaaS sits in the middle, above IaaS and below SaaS.
Vendors in this space offer specialized platforms, such as payments, communications, and integrations, providing businesses an efficient way to design, iterate, and deliver bespoke applications. Platform-based thinking is a key characteristic of competitive businesses, which can help in quickly responding to customer demands and accelerating innovation.
The latest advancements in PaaS technologies offer no-code/low-code application builders, which enable non-developers to create bespoke applications. Gartner has predicted that by 2024, 80% of technology products and services will be built by those who are not IT professionals.
To develop, test, and deploy applications, developers require a complete underlying computing environment with adequately configured software and hardware. In an on-premises model, all this had to be done in-house. The IT team had to evaluate, purchase, assemble, deploy, patch, upgrade, and maintain server hardware. In a cloud model, all these activities are outsourced to the cloud management service provider, which can offer managed service infrastructure.
Without having to invest capital and time in designing, deploying and managing hardware, companies can focus on developing their software applications, while letting the platform provider handle the operational and administrative burden.
The major cloud providers, such as AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure have IaaS as a core offering. Their customers have extensive control over how cloud infrastructure is provisioned. But this flexibility also requires staff to have vendor-specific skills and knowledge about the platform, including software-development-kits (SDKs) and the numerous APIs they offer. Even though IaaS abstracts away needing to buy and manage server hardware, the newly deployed virtual machines still need to be configured and managed. This can include installing and maintaining operating systems, configuring networking, and provisioning security appliances such as antiviruses or firewalls.
This is where PaaS provides an abstraction layer. A PaaS vendor not only provisions infrastructure on the customer’s behalf, but also deploys and manages operating systems, middleware, networking and security in order to provide a ready-to-use application development environment.
In general, a PaaS solution has three parts:
Managed Cloud Infrastructure - the PaaS vendor manages the underlying infrastructure, while providing users with a higher-level management interface, such as a console or API.
Middleware - enables adequate communications between the operating system and software used for data management, messaging, authentication, and APIs
Development Tools - for building, deploying, and managing applications.
While these are the bare bones of a PaaS solution, industry-specific platforms can offer additional value-adding services, such as support for distributed database systems.
Platform-as-a-Service solutions come in all shapes and sizes. While the list below is not exhaustive, it highlights some specialized PaaS platforms that provide additional platform features across a variety of software sub-domains.
Communication PaaS - has middleware to develop, run and distribute software for voice calls, messaging, teleconferencing, etc.
Mobile PaaS - simplifies application development for mobile devices by providing easy access to GPS, camera, and other such functions.
Integrations PaaS - provides a way to connect data and services across any combination of on-premises and cloud-based environments.
Application Lifecycle Management PaaS - is designed to govern the development and delivery of software by combining core ALM capabilities with extensibility based on Web service protocols and delivery via cloud infrastructure.
Database PaaS – helps automate provisioning, configuration, scaling and other cluster management tasks
Platform-as-a-service solutions allow companies of different sizes to dedicate their development time and resources exclusively to offer new services and products to their customers. Organizations that may traditionally have access to less development resources or engineering acumen now have access to the same high-leverage development tools as cutting edge technology companies. In industries where software development isn’t the primary profit silo, IT acts as a supporting function for enabling service delivery. PaaS can help divert investment from IT-as-a-supporting function to value-adding application development.
The most commonly-cited benefits of Platform-as-a-Service include:
Enabling the citizen developer - rather than only providing development environments for writing an application with code, PaaS tools also offer no-code/low-code tools that enable non-developers to write full-featured software applications. Using intuitive interfaces, workflows, and guided forms, non-technical teams can solve their specific business problems without requiring explicit development cycles from an engineering team.
Faster time to market - PaaS can help developers build applications quicker compared to IaaS or on-premises models. Without having to build, configure, and provision infrastructure, developers can focus solely on application development.
Simplifying the development lifecycle - PaaS enables developers to build, test, debug, deploy, host, and update their applications all in the same environment. When using a PaaS solution, new features, capabilities, and bug fixes are instantiated automatically in the cloud.
Affordable access to sophisticated tools - PaaS makes it possible for businesses to use sophisticated development software, business intelligence, and analytics tools without having to invest in deploying and supporting costly infrastructure.
Scalability - Scaling capacity to meet user-demand is a must-have feature for modern cloud applications, however most auto-scaling features require extensive knowledge and complex tuning. PaaS provides scalability without the overhead.
Predictable costs - One of the most common complaints with cloud infrastructure is the unpredictability and complexity of costs; companies can end up with surprising monthly bills as a result of unforeseen service costs. PaaS typically provides a very predictable, tier-based recurring cost.
Easy licensing - PaaS providers handle all licensing for operating systems, development tools, and everything else included in their platform.
When choosing a PaaS provider, it is important to understand the business needs to find a solution that is a good fit. The following needs to be considered before settling on a PaaS solution:
Vendor lock-in - It may become hard to switch PaaS providers once the application is built using the vendor's tools and specifically for their platform. The process can be time-consuming, labor-intensive, and expensive as developers may need to either rebuild or heavily alter their applications.
Opinionated implementation - One of the advantages of a PaaS is it significantly reduces the number of implementation details developers must address. There’s another side to that coin: the platform will limit the options and configuration available. As the application grows in complexity, newer use-cases or design patterns may simply not be possible within the sandbox of a PaaS. .
Security and compliance - In a PaaS model, the vendor will store and host your application code. As such, always assess vendors’ capabilities around security infrastructure, identity and access management, as well as compliance certificates.
Platform-as-a-Service is a powerful tool for enabling bespoke application development without managing underlying infrastructure and low-level software. By helping reduce development times and costs, PaaS can help businesses respond to customer demands much quicker than those using on-premises or infrastructure-as-a-service models.
PaaS will also become increasingly important as an innovation engine that empowers small development teams and a wider range of business users to build full-featured software applications. This will allow more businesses to take advantage of modern, cloud-based software and technology without being dependent on having access to the large development teams it typically requires.
Find out more about how Divio can help you with our cloud management platform. Book a customized demo today.