In this space we’ve extensively covered the benefits of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for your development, implementation, and support teams. There are benefits to be realized from a management perspective as well. Notably, PaaS has the ability to dramatically reduce costs and inefficiencies in IT implementations. From reducing wasteful overhead to enabling agile delivery to easing infrastructure upgrades, PaaS represents a sea-change in the way IT organizations project and budget costs.
Imagine a traditional data center for a small company. Let’s say that we have 50 robust server machines with a virtualization platform running a few hundred VMs. Each of those VMs requires a significant investment of resources to “stand up,” meaning install and configure. They require the time and expertise of trained IT staff to set up the operating systems, apply security patches, customize and configure the software they support, and re-configuration as requirements update and change. Those machines will likely need to be over-provisioned in order to support burst or peak workloads, while remaining largely idle during downtime. Supporting the virtualization layer requires its own skill set as well, and may entail additional third-party contractors or onboarding salaried employees. Licensing costs can quickly spiral out of control in this scenario too. Running and maintaining even a small data center such as this has a large impact on an organization’s expenses — and this is before considering logistics such as physical space, security, and climate controls.
Public Platforms-as-a-Service upends this entire cost model. To begin with, by taking the infrastructure out of the hands of your organization, you’re able to leverage a third-party data center for cost savings. Similar to co-location services, you reduce the amount of upfront capital required to operate because the investment in physical infrastructure is incurred by the providing vendor. Physical room to grow as your business grows is available as well, which can be a real challenge for businesses in their own data centers. Planning out space requirements can be fraught with uncertainty and financial risk. Floor space, robust security, environment, and climate controls all are provided as a service in a pay-for-use capacity, meaning the investment costs for us are significantly reduced.
At the operations layer, PaaS also offers significant cost savings. In our imaginary company described above it’s likely we are not in the business of selling IT services. Maybe we’re in healthcare, or finance, or retail. Our primary organizational goal is not to be an IT company, but to sell a product or service that happens to sit on top of a robust IT infrastructure. Bringing on the operational expertise to run a data center and the expertise to manage that line of business is a significant expense. When we leverage a public PaaS we take that expense off our books, again turning it into a recurring operational expense that expands and contracts as we use it. We let the PaaS provider be the expert in running and maintaining servers and virtualization platforms — so we can focus on our core business.
Wasteful “headroom” for handling peak traffic or usage of our IT services is completely eliminated by utilizing a Platform-as-a-Service. PaaS features such as dynamic resource allocation and autoscaling means that we’re only paying for exactly what we need when we need it. We no longer have to buy enough to match our peak usage, only to see that extra capacity go to waste when things slow down. PaaS services expand and contract to support our workload, and the expense of running those services expands and contracts to match. Some cloud providers even offer the option to buy capacity ahead of time at a bulk rate, enabling even more cost savings that we would be unable to realize on our own.
As for hardware and software upgrades or licensing, it’s out of our hands entirely. The provider is responsible for handling all of that complexity and expense. Included in our service price are any licensing fees or upgrade costs that we might otherwise incur. As hardware fails or becomes obsolete, the migration to new hardware is transparent to us. Operating systems, databases, and other software systems are simply available to our systems.
The dynamic allocation of public Platforms-as-a-Service within organizations is most immediately felt by developers and operations teams. However, this flexibility also translates directly into cost savings for a company. As PaaS becomes more routinely adopted, the total cost of ownership for an IT service is going to be dramatically reduced, allowing for more agile development and richer products to be delivered.
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