What is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

The cloud has dramatically changed how business applications are built and run. Delivering a new application can now be accomplished within a web browser, either using a point-and-click interface or by deploying custom code. A platform as a service (PaaS) allows businesses to easily deploy, run, and manage custom cloud applications without the complexity of building and maintaining their servers and infrastructure.

What is Platform as a Service?

PaaS, or Platform as a Service, is a cloud computing model that provides customers a complete cloud platform – hardware, software, and infrastructure – for developing, running, and managing applications without the cost, complexity, and inflexibility that often come with building and maintaining that platform on-premises.

The PaaS provider hosts everything – servers, networks, storage, operating system software, databases, and development tools – at their data center. Typically customers can pay a fixed fee to provide a specified amount of resources for a specified number of users, or they can choose ‘pay-as-you-go’ pricing to pay only for the resources they use. Either option enables PaaS customers to build, test, deploy run, update and scale applications more quickly and inexpensively than they could if they had to build out and manage their on-premises platform.

platform as a service

How does Platform as a Service work?

As mentioned above, PaaS does not replace a company’s entire IT infrastructure for software development. It is provided through a cloud service provider’s hosted infrastructure. Users most frequently access the offerings through a web browser. PaaS can be delivered through public, private, and hybrid clouds to deliver services such as application hosting and Java development.

Other PaaS services include the following:

  • development team collaboration;
  • application design and development;
  • application testing and deployment;
  • web service integration;
  • information security;
  • database integration.

Users will normally have to pay for PaaS on a per-use basis. However, some providers charge a flat monthly fee for access to the platform and its applications.

What is Platform as a Service used for?

One of the advantages of PaaS is its flexibility and scalability. Developers can build apps using their choice of programming language or framework. They can run any type of app on a PaaS, whether it be a web or mobile app, an Internet of Things (IoT) app, or an application programming interface (API) that connects apps and systems. PaaS services are designed to easily scale; apps can start small and seamlessly scale up to handle enterprise-level demand.

An app on a PaaS may also be a back-end service that provides a particular function, such as authenticating users or push notifications. Many companies today are taking a microservices approach to their application architecture; they’re building applications that are composed of a constellation of individual back-end and front-end services. PaaS makes it easier to quickly deploy and manage individual microservices, especially if they are built using several different languages and frameworks.

Overall, PaaS is a good choice for delivering highly customized, modern apps that drive business innovation or customer engagement.

platform as a service

What are the advantages of PaaS?

Platform as a Service helps streamline the development process by shifting the nuts and bolts work of managing individual software and hardware – servers, operating systems, and storage – into a complete development and deployment environment. With PaaS, developers can virtualize the entire infrastructure layer and make it work as a single server. As such, this platform and service combination allows an organization to avoid purchasing and maintaining the infrastructure needed to develop and deploy new applications.

In addition, by automating the back end of development, developers can achieve improved consistency and reliability. And because PaaS systems often have security and data protection built-in, development teams don’t need to work on resiliency measures such as replication and backups. Moreover, when it comes to the many details of deploying applications from multiple systems and across both the web and the Internet of Things, PaaS offers integration and aggregation components that simplify the process.

Using PaaS, a business can take advantage of:

  • Shorter development times
  • Increased workforce capabilities
  • Lower costs
  • Rapid scalability
  • Access to business analytics
  • Team collaboration support
  • Streamlined application lifecycle management

What are the potential drawbacks of using Platform as a Service?

Vendor lock-in

It may become hard to switch PaaS providers since the application is built using the vendor’s tools and specifically for their platform. Each vendor may have different architecture requirements. Different vendors may not support the same languages, libraries, APIs, architecture, or operating systems used to build and run the application. To switch vendors, developers may need to either rebuild or heavily alter their applications.

Vendor dependency

The effort and resources involved in changing PaaS vendors may make companies more dependent on their current vendors. A small change in the vendor’s internal processes or infrastructure could have a huge impact on the performance of an application designed to run efficiently on the old configuration. Additionally, if the vendor changes its pricing model, an application may suddenly become more expensive to operate.

Security and compliance challenges

In a PaaS architecture, the external vendor will store most or all of an application’s data, along with hosting its code. In some cases, the vendor may store the databases via a further third party, an IaaS provider. Though most PaaS vendors are large companies with strong security in place, this makes it difficult to fully assess and test the security measures protecting the application and its data. In addition, for companies that have to comply with strict data security regulations, verifying the compliance of additional external vendors will add more hurdles to going to market.

platform as a service

What is the future of PaaS?

As PaaS solutions evolve, they will continue to offer innovation and eliminate administrative and management complexity for everything from installation, setup, and configuration to management, maintenance, and auditing. They will achieve this through:

  • Increased automation and autonomous operations for managed services
  • Expanded and enhanced first- and third-party integrations
  • Native support for AI, IoT, blockchain, chatbots, and other emerging technologies

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