What is PaaS? Platform-as-a-service explained

The cloud-provided application development platform provides greater flexibility and less overhead so your programmers can focus on code

What is PaaS? Software development in the cloud
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Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is a type of cloud computing offering in which a service provider delivers a platform to clients, enabling them to develop, run, and manage business applications without the need to build and maintain the infrastructure such software development processes typically require.

Because PaaS architectures keep the underlying infrastructure out of sight of developers and other users, the model is similar to the concepts of serverless computing and function-as-a-service (FaaS), in which a cloud service provider provisions and runs the server and manages the allocation of resources. 

FaaS is a type of serverless offering that allows companies to develop and run discrete, event-driven functions without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically needed for developing and launching an application.

PaaS and serverless computing services typically charge only for compute, storage, and network resources consumed. FaaS takes that approach to the extreme, charging only when functions are executed, making FaaS a natural choice for intermittent tasks. 

All in the cloud family

As with other cloud services such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS), PaaS is offered via a cloud service provider’s hosted infrastructure. Users typically access PaaS offerings via a web browser.

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PaaS can be delivered through public, private, or hybrid clouds. With a public cloud PaaS, the customer controls software deployment while the cloud provider delivers all the major IT components needed to host the applications, including servers, storage systems, networks, operating systems, and databases.

With a private cloud offering, PaaS is delivered as software or an appliance within a customer’s firewall, typically in its on-premises datacenter. Hybrid cloud PaaS offers a mix of the two types of cloud service.

Rather than replace an organization’s entire IT infrastructure for software development, PaaS provides key services such as application hosting or Java development. Some PaaS offerings include application design, development, testing, and deployment. PaaS services can also include web service integration, development team collaboration, database integration, and information security.

As with other types of cloud services, customers pay for PaaS on a per-use basis, with some providers charging a flat monthly fee for access to the platform and applications hosted on the platform.

PaaS advantages 

One of the biggest advantages of PaaS is that enterprises can gain an environment in which to create and deploy new applications without the need to spend time and money building and maintaining an infrastructure that includes servers and databases.

This can lead to faster development and delivery of applications, a huge plus for businesses looking to gain a competitive edge or that need to get products to market quickly.

PaaS also lets them test the use of new languages, operating systems, databases, and other development technologies quickly, because they do not have to stand up the supporting infrastructure for them. PaaS also makes it easier and faster to upgrade their tools.

And the use of PaaS forces enterprise software developers to use cloud techniques in their applications, helping then adopt modern principles and take better advantage of cloud infrastructure (IaaS) platforms.

Because organizations using PaaS can manage their applications and data, loss of control is not a major issue as it often is when using cloud infrastructure or applications.

PaaS applications 

Providing a hosted environment for application development, testing, and deployment is one of the most common uses for PaaS. But it is hardly the only reason why enterprises use PaaS.

Research firm Gartner cites a variety of use cases for PaaS, including:

  • API development and management. Companies can use PaaS to develop, run, manage, and secure application programming interfaces and microservices. This includes the creation of new APIs and new interfaces for existing APIs, as well as end-to-end API management.
  • Business analytics/intelligence. Tools provided via PaaS let enterprises analyze their data to find business insights and patterns of behavior so they can make better decisions and more accurately predict future events such as market demand for products,
  • Business process management (BPM). Organizations can use PaaS to access a BPM platform delivered as a service as with other cloud offerings. BPM suites integrate IT components needed for process management, including data, business rules, and service-level agreements.
  • Communications. PaaS can also serve as a delivery mechanisms for communications platforms. This allows developers to add communications features such as voice, video, and messaging to applications.
  • Databases. A PaaS provider can deliver services such as setting up and maintaining an organization’s database. Research firm Forrester Research defines database PaaS as “an on-demand, secure, and scalable self-service database platform that automates provisioning and administration of databases and can be used by developers and non-technical personnel.”
  • Internet of things. IoT is expected to be a big part of PaaS usage in the coming years, supporting the wide range of application environments and programming languages and tools that various IoT deployments will use.
  • Master data management (MDM). This covers the processes, governance, policies, standards, and tools that manage the critical business data an enterprise owns, providing a single point of reference for data. Such data might include reference data such as information about customer transactions, and analytical data to support decision making.
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