What is Platform as a Service, or PaaS? A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Choosing the best PaaS solution is critically important to your development team and your organization. Let’s see the definition of PaaS, the enabling scenarios, and what questions will help you identify the best solution for your company.

What is a PaaS Platform?

PaaS is short for Platform as a Service. This term indicates a cloud service through which a provider provides a development environment and the appropriate tools to design new applications. So PaaS is a useful service, especially for software developers and companies who want to quickly and easily create and release new programs or apps without worrying about the necessary infrastructure.

A Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a cloud-based platform that provides a complete development environment for building and deploying applications and services. Choosing a PaaS means simplifying the process of creating, testing, deploying, and updating hardware and software infrastructure ( including middleware and programming languages).

Where to start using a PaaS Platform?

Where to start using a PaaS Platform? Adopting cloud services within an organization is not immediate; it happens gradually. The initial goals that kick-start the shift to PaaS are mainly:

Engagement systems (Interaction systems):  The user experience and involvement are of considerable importance today in an increasingly competitive market. Applications need to be continuously updated with new features and content within days. This speed requires simplifying the creation process and reliability and security. These applications include social, mobile, POS (Point Of Sale), and self-service.

Data analysis systems: Big Data is a consolidated reality. Analyzing large amounts of information to obtain business indicators and forecasting systems in real-time has become necessary to gain a competitive advantage. Thanks to the API connection, the analytics software has a scalable, reliable, and open environment.

Scalability: Scalability allows you to increase and reduce the allocation of resources on demand. PaaS allows you to use resources dynamically to manage workload growth without impacting the user experience.

The five questions to answer before choosing a PaaS Platform

Now that you are ready to implement your PaaS system, which solution should you adopt? We need to choose the best PaaS solution for your organization to maximize your investment. I have prepared five questions that will help you make the right decision.

1. What frameworks and the Paas system support programming languages?

Make sure that PaaS supports your development team’s frameworks and programming languages ​​to prevent application and infrastructure rebuilds and not be forced to recruit new skills. Moving to PaaS means changing existing applications and developing new ones more quickly – it may not be appropriate to change the underlying technology, as this would hurt the return on investment.

2. Does the adoption of a PaaS platform simplify the DevOps methodology?

The DevOps and Agile methodology increase an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services quickly, allowing it to offer a high level of service to its customers. Adopting the right, PaaS supports these methodologies by introducing standardization of development tools and automation of development, testing and distribution activities.

3. Does It Provide Complete solutions to support the entire development process?

Many PaaS solutions on the market do not offer a complete set of middleware services to support your enterprise applications’ entire development and automation process. Choose a platform with powerful and flexible development tools, automation and integration services, and support such as Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS).

4. Does it guarantee a high degree of portability?

It is important to choose a PaaS that can easily move applications from one cloud to another and from on-premise to the cloud. The PaaS system and its applications should be portable to different public and private cloud providers.

5. Does the Paas provider have a reputation for reliability, is it flexible, and does it have predictable costs?

Choosing a PaaS platform must include evaluating a reputable provider. The vendor should offer easily customizable solutions with a clear, flexible pricing model and effective support.

Using PaaS technology allows companies to focus on the business requirements of applications without worrying about the underlying technological complexity by introducing development speed and efficient infrastructure. 

How to choose a PaaS service provider

To choose the right PaaS solution for your needs, it is good to consider some aspects:

What features does it include? Are they useful for your app? With the constant growth and development of apps and the addition of more users, it becomes useful to adopt rapid scalability and have the options available as they become necessary.

Is the solution optimized for the language and framework in use? Otherwise, the runtimes could become a problem.

Will the provider guarantee ongoing assistance? It is good to check that the provider is trustworthy, has a good reputation among its customers, and can offer support when needed.

Is it possible to predict how many users will use the app? The higher the number of users and the more specific the code, the slower the application will run and the more difficult it is to migrate from one service provider to another if necessary.

Popular Platform as a service solution

In the context of cloud computing, PaaS represents a link between “Software as a Service” (SaaS) and “Infrastructure as a Service” ( IaaS ). While IaaS provides the infrastructure businesses need for their work, PaaS offers a package of useful tools to get started directly with app development. With Platform as a Service, it is possible to sketch, test, improve and make your product available to users.

Popular Platform as a Service solution includes Google Cloud Platform, Salesforce’s Google App Engine (GAE), Red Hat, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud, force.com, and IBM Cloud.

Why do you need Paas?

The Platform as a Service (abbreviated to PaaS) allows customers to rent a virtual platform on which they can develop, test, and make web applications available to users.

PaaS offers are essentially composed of basic infrastructure such as servers, operating systems, storage space, and middleware, i.e., programs that connect multiple applications. Resources such as development tools, programming languages, database management systems (DBMS), and technologies built with containers are added. 

However, if you choose to use a PaaS platform, you no longer have to deal with building and managing the infrastructure or to create the solutions needed for development. Still, you can fully concentrate on programming your application and your customers. The resulting programs can finally be made available via the cloud as Software as a Service, for example, in the case of commercial apps or internal Software intended only for corporate use.

How does the PaaS platform work?

With Platform as a Service, you essentially develop your product as if you were in a development environment designed by you. After creating it, please insert the code on the Platform, where it is made available and executable in a container with the necessary resources. So you can see the changes right away. Many PaaS services are also capable of running multiple versions of a program at the same time. In this way, you can create live test environments or perform rollbacks of previous versions, for example.

Hosting offers give a classic example of how the Platform as a Service works. Customers create a code, enter it into the web hosting service that runs it, and display the created  PaaS offerings can be even more complex and include many other functions.

What are the particularities of the PaaS platform?

If you use Platform as a Service, you only have certain programming languages ​​available. Pay attention to the requirements your project must meet and which programming languages ​​the individual PaaS solutions use.

Also, think about what performance will be required in the future when the applications you develop are successful and generate more traffic. Even in the event of a peak of visitors, your service must remain stable: a non-optimal performance negatively affects your company, leading to excessively long loading times and causing customer dissatisfaction.

Most of the time, the performance in use can be scaled, with a consequent price increase. Therefore, you should carefully evaluate the costs before opting for a service.

Application fields of Platform as a Service

In addition to app development, there are also other fields of application for the PaaS platform:

  • Extending and developing new APIs
  • Furthermore, large amounts of data can be analyzed to better predict the demand for certain products.
  • PaaS can also be used to access or configure a Business Process Management platform on which the service conditions or level agreements are stored.
  • The Platform can also be used to manage critical business data: it quickly offers an overview of the data, even if it is stored redundantly on different systems.
  • Furthermore, Platform as a Service can act as a communication platform, thus offering audio and video content or instant messaging services.
  • As a database, the PaaS service is also used for automatic databases.
  • The Internet of Things sector can be seen as a possible future development, as it plays an important role in cloud services. PaaS environments are suitable for the development of new applications that can be used in the Internet of Things.

Types of PaaS platforms

Considering the wide range of Platform as a Service solution, it isn’t easy to classify them into unique categories. The individual models are very different from each other and are tailor-made to meet different needs. Nonetheless, certain characteristics allow us to identify different types.

Thus we distinguish between Application PaaS (aPaaS) and Integration and Governance PaaS (iPaaS): the first model indicates the provision of apps that are equipped with a graphical interface; for example, it could be a program used in the company by employees by accessing a cloud.

Instead, iPaaS aims to integrate cloud services, making the use of middleware unnecessary to make applications available. An example is the Anypoint Platform, developed by MuleSoft. Simply making applications available does not allow for app development or testing, only for them to function.

To these are added the open PaaS offers, which include applications such as Google App Engine, which allow you to work in an open-source environment and in which programming languages, databases, servers, or operating systems are not already prepared.

Pros & Cons of PaaS

With PaaS the products will reach the market faster. Furthermore, the performances are scalable; it is possible to flexibly expand or decrease the required capacities according to your needs, as with other cloud services. In addition, there is the possibility of saving since there are no costs for the construction of the infrastructure, and you do not even have to perform maintenance and updates.

 In fact, for this very reason, you have no control over the infrastructure and cannot implement the features yourself. Furthermore, only the programming languages ​​and tools provided by the supplier can be used.

Another factor to consider when choosing a Platform as a Service is that you are more or less tied to the chosen development environment with your project. It is possible to migrate a small project. Still, in the case of larger applications, the code cannot always be carried over in its entirety during the transfer to another platform: it must be rewritten from scratch, at least in part.

Wrapping up

Finally, it is particularly annoying when the chosen provider suspends the service or fails. To reduce the possibility of a similar risk, it would be better to opt for a service that has already been established on the market for some time.

The PaaS model doesn’t just offer the computing power and infrastructure you need to better collect, share and implement data in your organization. It also provides the environment you need to leverage real-time data and deploy internal or external applications.

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