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What is PaaS, platform as a service?

Developers consistently require technological and service innovation to enhance the usability of development tools. Aside from improvements in operating systems, technologies like cloud computing, and other advancements, application development has improved drastically with the rise of cloud computing services like platform as a service (PaaS). Here’s how this cloud computing model can help enhance application development.

What is PaaS, platform as a service?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

What is platform as a service?

Platform as a service is a cloud computing model where a third party (a PaaS provider) helps with a company’s application development by providing them the hardware and software to create applications. PaaS providers are typically counted among those who provide cloud solutions as a service to other companies. They help expand companies’ operational and development capabilities with cloud-based infrastructure management.

How does platform as a service work?

While PaaS providers help a business augment its IT infrastructure, they don’t replace the IT infrastructure by themselves. Businesses that use a PaaS provider will take advantage of PaaS offerings as long as their development teams need it — usually on a per project or application basis.

Platform as a service solutions have three core components:

Core cloud infrastructure

As a cloud-based service, PaaS providers offer cloud solutions like virtual machines that can run several different operating systems for application development. Data storage, servers (both hardware and software), and other equipment are also part of what PaaS providers offer.

Middleware software

Development kits and libraries are crucial for developing applications and are integral to PaaS solutions. Middleware keeps the underlying infrastructure out of the way (with other means of support like virtual machine hosting), which enables businesses to let their development teams go straight to developing, building, and deploying applications. This also grants developers greater freedom in how they work on their various projects.

User interface

A communications platform (usually a graphical user interface) is crucial for a development team to collaborate effectively, no matter where they are or what their setup is like. PaaS solutions will always use a cloud-based platform for their user interfaces, enabling cloud-native development without too much investment from the business using their services.

Platform as a service use cases

While the specifics may vary depending on the application, the size of the development team, and the nature of the business using their services, the best use case for PaaS solutions is when an application needs a flexible development environment.

In particular, PaaS services shine when:

  • An application needs migration to a cloud-based platform for further work.
  • Various programming languages are involved in application development.
  • The application integrates itself heavily with IoT (Internet of Things) projects.
  • Application development requires database integration for easier collaboration.
  • The business is pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy using both public cloud and private cloud services.

Overall, if a business wishes to fully integrate cloud development and applications into its workflow, PaaS applications are an excellent way to do this without requiring too much effort and resource investment.

What are the benefits of PaaS?

PaaS is a development tool that any development team should be familiar with, especially given the various benefits it can provide to their overall workflow.

Low maintenance

With PaaS, businesses no longer need to build and maintain the majority of their cloud infrastructure. All they need is the data to put in the PaaS platform and integrate PaaS solutions into their workflow.

Cost-effective pricing

A PaaS provider hosts teams and their application development for as long as the application’s lifespan demands it. This cuts down on costs since businesses can effectively use a PaaS provider for as long as they need it or as allowed by their contract.

Easy scalability

PaaS can easily scale in both usage and users, often responding to real-time demands. Businesses can request additional support from their PaaS provider depending on the performance of their application. This enables the organization and operations teams to quickly deploy applications and speed up development if needed.

Greater flexibility for development teams

As a cloud-based service, PaaS development tools are accessible to any development or DevOps team as long as they have an internet connection. It’s this flexibility that allows multiple teams to work on a single project no matter their programming language or even their specific working conditions.

Future-proof investment

PaaS solutions often include other services that can further offset the load on a company’s IT infrastructure, like serverless computing. Services like these significantly lower the need for a company to invest in its own IT or cloud infrastructure to make its own internal systems future-proof. Instead, companies can simply rely on the PaaS provider to make the necessary upgrades to its service.

What are the drawbacks of PaaS?

Despite its benefits, PaaS by itself isn’t a be-all, end-all solution for application development. The majority of its drawbacks stem from entrusting most of the application workflow to a third party.

Vendor lock-in

PaaS providers will often implement vendor lock-ins once they’ve been contracted by a business for a project. This is often done to make sure that their integration into the application development workflow has no issues. However, it can become a problem if the business wants to change providers mid-development because it can lead to delays when switching PaaS solutions.

Vendor dependency

The quality of service will vary greatly depending on the PaaS provider. Some may offer robust support when development teams request it, while others may have limited integrations for teams to use. Adding to the earlier consideration of vendor lock-ins, companies will have to rely on their PaaS provider for the majority of their developmental life cycle.

Security and compliance challenges

Data regulations differ depending on the region, which can be an issue if the company’s chosen PaaS provider doesn’t comply with these regulations. Additionally, involving a third party in an application’s development cycle can be a potential security risk for data breaches and leaks, especially if the client company is in a highly competitive industry.

Compatibility risks

Using a PaaS provider can clash with pre-existing development platforms and workflows, which means teams need an initial adjustment and training period to use the PaaS platform well. This can be a problem if a business needs an application developed and released within a set time, especially when responding to consumer demand.

PaaS vs. IaaS vs. SaaS

While PaaS, IaaS (infrastructure as a service), and SaaS (software as a service) have some overlap, companies and individual end users need to consider some important differences.

An easy breakdown of each service is:

  • IaaS: Hardware, such as data centers, servers, storage, and networks
  • PaaS: All of the above inclusions, along with operating systems, development tools, and data management solutions
  • SaaS: Covers inclusions of both IaaS and PaaS, plus application hosting and maintenance in the cloud

Each company may choose a specific service depending on its needs, budget, and overall development workflow. PaaS solutions are a good middle ground between offloading IT infrastructure to a third party and completely handing over the hosting process for the completed application to an external host.

Common PaaS providers in the market

Most PaaS offerings will differ depending on the programming language that the development team will use, though some will have overlaps with other providers. The most common PaaS solutions companies can use include:

  • IBM Cloud.
  • OpenShift.
  • Microsoft Azure App Services.
  • Heroku.
  • Google App Engine.
  • Einstein 1.
  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk.

PaaS solutions for better application development

While the computing resources required for successful app development can vary between development teams, using PaaS as part of an IT team’s development toolkit can often improve the quality of their projects.

All it takes is the right cloud service provider to partner with, and a business can see its development process improve. With the various advantages offered by PaaS, many PaaS providers enable companies to succeed in developing apps even without their own infrastructure or application platform.


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