What is PaaS (Platform as a Service)?
Cloud computing has transformed how IT teams procure infrastructure and build applications. One of the best examples of this can be found in Platform as a Service (PaaS).
This web-based toolkit gives developers the physical infrastructure and essential software they need to build high-performance products. With PaaS, teams can develop and deploy their own applications without worrying about maintaining the underlying infrastructure.
Who uses PaaS?
Platform as a Service solutions are well-known for helping development and operations teams streamline workflows. Instead of having to manage and maintain infrastructure themselves, they can focus entirely on designing, building, and testing applications.
This out-of-the-box toolkit provides IT teams with speed and flexibility. It can also reduce costs and simplify some of the challenges associated with rapid application deployment. Since it comes with an integrated suite of development and collaboration tools, PaaS has become particularly useful when lots of developers are working on the same project.
Differences between PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS
Software as a Service (SaaS)
While traditional software had to be installed on each machine, SaaS applications are usually accessed through a web browser. For companies, this means easy deployment, no maintenance, and access from anywhere with an internet connection.
Due to that freedom, SaaS cloud applications have become increasingly common in business. They’re typically offered on a subscription basis, letting companies spread the cost. Users then simply navigate to the SaaS provider’s website, log in, and continue their work. SaaS is the most complete type of cloud computing service.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the most fundamental cloud service. It provides users with the essential hardware resources needed to create their own environments. With IaaS, companies can host, deploy, and build their own tasks and workloads in the cloud.
IaaS providers will take care of data storage, servers, networking, and virtualisation. Users will manage their own applications, data, runtime, middleware, and operating system (O/S). Large IaaS providers include Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
The different components of PaaS
The building blocks of a typical PaaS solution include:
Managed infrastructure: The vendor takes care of the servers, storage, data centres, and networking resources. This means development teams can focus on application building rather than worrying about infrastructure upkeep.
Design, testing, and development tools: PaaS solutions include everything that a developer would require to build an application. The integrated development environment contains a source code editor, debugger, compiler, and other essential tools that assist in writing, deploying, and managing code. Some vendors will also throw in collaboration tools that make it easier for developers to share and contribute to each other’s work.
Middleware: Middleware allows users to interact with software. It acts as a bridge between user-facing applications and operating systems. For example, middleware helps software understand keyboard or mouse input from users. PaaS often includes middleware, so developers don't have to build it themselves.
O/S and databases: PaaS vendors provide the O/S for applications to run on. The O/S will be automatically updated with security patches, so developers can stay focused on building their applications. PaaS providers are also able to offer managed database options too.
Examples of PaaS solutions
AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Azure App Services, Google App Engine, OpenShift, Heroku, Force.com, Apache Stratos, Magento Commerce, and SAP Cloud.
The various types of PaaS
Public PaaS: This platform runs on the public cloud, on a shared infrastructure that hosts multi-tenant environments. By handing over control of their infrastructure, users can simply focus on building scalable applications.
Private PaaS: Private PaaS runs on infrastructure used exclusively by a single organisation. It typically appeals to businesses that don’t host critical data in a public cloud environment, like banks and other financial institutions.
Hybrid PaaS: This allows businesses to combine public and private PaaS. With hybrid PaaS, they can benefit from the almost limitless capacity of public PaaS and the control achieved through private PaaS.
Communications PaaS: A communications PaaS allows developers to add voice, video, and messaging to their applications without building real-time communications infrastructure.
Mobile PaaS (MPaaS): MPaaS frees users from infrastructure needs and helps them build mobile applications. With convenient drag-and-drop interfaces, coding skills aren’t necessary for some MPaaS services – removing the need for mobile app developers and additional IT support.
Open PaaS: This open-source platform was created to support collaborative projects involving different organisations. The flexible design of open PaaS means that users can quickly build and deploy new applications.
The benefits of using PaaS
Platform as a Service gives developers the freedom to concentrate on building software without having to worry about an O/S, software updates, storage, or infrastructure. So, dev teams can create and deploy applications much faster at more frequent intervals - shortening the app development cycle. Other PaaS benefits include:
Pay-as-you-go pricing eliminates the need to invest in expensive on-premises infrastructure that requires maintenance and is difficult to scale in line with customer demands.
Encouragement of DevOps
DevOps streamlines workflows within an IT department, allowing dev and operations teams to work more efficiently. PaaS can contribute to shorter development cycles and process automation which can drastically reduce time to market.
The best PaaS providers benefit from skilled teams of cloud experts. Everything they build is secure by design, ensuring decisions related to security practices are managed in a uniform, industry-compliant way. Additionally, many PaaS providers will utilise SASE to enable secure access to network resources from anywhere.
Since PaaS solutions are maintained by the vendor, they come with service-level agreements and other guarantees. That means developers don’t have to worry about tasks like patching and upgrading the O/S.
What are the drawbacks of using PaaS?
Despite a wide variety of benefits, businesses looking to adopt a Platform as a Service solution should be aware of the potential challenges.
Vendor lock-in: To switch vendors, developers may need to either rebuild or heavily alter their applications. That’s because different vendors may support different languages, libraries, APIs, architecture, or operating systems.
Vendor dependency: A small change in your PaaS vendor's infrastructure could have a considerable impact on the performance of your product. Also, if a vendor decides to change its pricing model, your application might abruptly become more expensive to operate.
Security and compliance challenges: Some PaaS vendors may store their managed databases with a third party to save on costs. So, fully assessing the security measures protecting your application’s data can be difficult. For companies that must comply with strict data security procedures, verifying the compliance of another external vendor can cause headaches and delay time to market.
What are some use cases for PaaS?
PaaS solutions are often picked up by development teams that don’t need to customise their underlying infrastructure and want a fast and reliable way to develop applications. By providing an integrated and ready-to-use platform, PaaS can contribute to all kinds of IT initiatives including:
API development and management
APIs are an important element of distributed applications. With built-in frameworks, PaaS makes it easy to develop, run, manage, and secure APIs for shared functionality between apps.
Internet of Things (IoT)
PaaS platforms provide the building blocks that are essential for IoT systems. They support a variety of programming languages, tools, and environments as well as real-time processing of data generated by IoT devices.
Agile development and DevOps
As we’ve already mentioned, PaaS can be a huge asset when streamlining development lifecycles - allowing teams to build systems that automate delivery, testing, and deployment.
Communication and collaboration
PaaS can be used by businesses that want to embed communications into their apps and services. Features like voice, chat, and videos can be added via APIs.
The future of PaaS
Platform as a Service is driving a new era of innovation and agility. Thanks to increasing adoption, more developers can focus on building apps, rather than managing complex infrastructure.
Now that PaaS is a well-established solution, more enterprises are exploring the advantages of outsourcing their infrastructure needs. Some businesses are going even further with XaaS (Everything as a Service) solutions which are lowering barriers to app development, reducing skills gaps, and accelerating innovation.
As PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS solutions evolve, they’ll continue to help organisations create development processes that best suit their needs.