What Is Platform as a Service?

What Is Platform as a Service

Definition of PaaS

Platform as a Service, otherwise known as PaaS, is a cloud computing service model in which a third-party provider delivers hardware and software tools (typically used in application development) to users over the internet.

With PaaS, cloud migration services & solutions are enhanced with the possibility of quick deployment and adjusting the infrastructures to the current business demands.

PaaS Examples

Salesforce Heroku

Based out of San Francisco, CA, Salesforce is one of the largest software enterprises in the world and has been selling cloud-based software solutions since its founding in 1999.

Heroku is the company’s primary PaaS offering and is used by developers to create, test, deploy, and scale applications across numerous languages and frameworks.

Red Hat OpenShift

Red Hat is a US-based software company focused on providing open-source software solutions for enterprise organizations. OpenShift, Red Hat’s flagship PaaS solution, allows developers to build, test, run, and manage containerized applications and workloads.

OpenShift’s PaaS offerings are powered by an open-source project called OKD, a Kubernetes “community distribution” that significantly optimizes the application development lifecycle.

Amazon Web Services

AWS is the largest and most widely used cloud vendor in the world. The company was founded in 2006, and currently controls over 30% of the entire global cloud market.

While AWS does not offer a singular PaaS service in the conventional sense (such as Heroku), the company provides numerous tools and solutions that can be used to create a PaaS. Examples of AWS PaaS solutions include Elastic Beanstalk, Cloud90, and CodeDeploy.

Microsoft Azure

Like most of the other major cloud vendors, Azure offers numerous cloud services for all major service models (i.e. SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS). Two of the most popular Azure PaaS services are Azure Search and Azure App Service. Azure is the second most popular cloud vendor in the world, holding 22% of the market in 2021.

Google App Engine

Google Cloud Platform’s PaaS cloud offering, App Engine, features powerful built-in services that allow developers to create, host, and manage mobile and web applications. The service was started in 2008 and is used by tens of thousands of businesses to build scalable applications on the cloud.

PaaS Characteristics

PaaS typically incorporates an operating system, middleware, other software, databases, and various infrastructure that allows application developers to build, test, deploy, and manage applications from a cloud-based environment.

The various components and infrastructure that comprise a PaaS evironment, apart from user-managed data and applications, are all owned, operated, and maintained by the service provider, not the end user.

Defining characteristics of a PaaS solution include:

  • Web-based UI for user access
  • Various services for developers to build, test, run, and manage the entire application development lifecycle
  • Multitenancy
  • High degree of scalability
  • Subscription or usage-based payment model

PaaS Products and Vendors

PaaS vendors are third-party service providers that offer PaaS products to other businesses or end users. Examples of various vendors that sell PaaS products include:

  • Red Hat
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Salesforce
  • Google
  • SAP
  • Apprenda
  • Dokku

Although privately owned PaaS solutions exist (typically at an enterprise level), the term “PaaS products” refers to commercially available solutions most commonly used by application development teams.

PaaS Providers

Another term for vendors, “PaaS providers” are third-party businesses that create and sell PaaS solutions to other organizations, users, and application developers.

SaM Solutions is an example of a PaaS provider, with our Rollingstack solution being an example of a PaaS offering. Rollingstack is a cloud development and operations management platform. One of Rollingstack’s main features is its advanced DevOps automation capabilities.

PaaS Applications

While one of the most common reasons why organizations use PaaS is for the development, testing, and deployment of applications, PaaS can be used for a variety of purposes.

PaaS applications exist for numerous functions such as BI, DevOps, API management, and various IoT use cases. One of the benefits of utilizing PaaS-based tools is their inherent flexibility and scalability – users can perform advanced customizations, integrations, as well as on-demand horizontal and vertical scaling.

PaaS Technologies

While Heroku has become the most recognizable PaaS service, the technology got its start back in 2006 by London-based Zimki (in the form of a Javascript-based code execution platform).

The impact that PaaS technologies have had on the business world has been profound. PaaS has empowered developers to efficiently create, test, deploy, and manage apps over the internet in a way that wasn’t possible before the cloud – enabling businesses to become more agile, release software products much quicker, and fully leverage the power of cloud computing.

The inherent scalability of PaaS technologies, coupled with budget-friendly pricing models, has allowed organizations to develop and release new solutions faster with far less overhead costs than in the past. Some of the most innovative apps and solutions on the market relied on PaaS technologies to get there.

PaaS Risks

Ever since the first public PaaS solution was released in 2005, the technology has continually advanced and optimized the world of application development.  However, depending on your specific needs and circumstances, there are some potential challenges in utilizing PaaS.

Compliance and security-related risk. For organizations in certain industries, such as finance, government, healthcare, or defense, compliance-related issues can be a potential challenge. While most major PaaS vendors employ strict data security standards, it’s important to perform due diligence when selecting a provider. Understanding a vendor’s security standards (e.g. qualifications, encryption, etc.), data availability/independence, and disaster recovery protocols should be a priority when searching for a PaaS.

Vendor lock-in and dependency risk. Becoming “vendor locked” refers to a company being tied to a certain vendor, or solution, because switching to another PaaS is technically impractical, not possible, or cost-intensive. Another potential challenge is becoming so dependent on a vendor’s specific PaaS or solution offering, that the effort involved in switching providers or technologies is not feasible – opening the user up to both technological and business headaches (should the vendor make any changes to their service offering).

PaaS Services

In a B2B context, PaaS services are the various offerings that providers, or vendors, offer to other businesses to help optimize and manage application lifecycles, allowing developers to focus on code – not infrastructure. Examples of what’s included in a typical PaaS service offering include:

  • Application development tools
  • Business Intelligence (BI) tools
  • DevOps automation tools
  • AI and machine learning functionalities
  • Application monitoring
  • Vendor-maintained infrastructure and underlying components

PaaS Solutions

PaaS solutions offer an easy way for organizations to efficiently develop, test, run, and manage applications in the cloud, with their primary user base being application developers. A PaaS solution can be thought of as an application development platform accessed over the internet, existing in the space between SaaS and IaaS.

Most PaaS solutions are used in the context of cross-platform application development, DevOps, and mobile app development, but usage varies and numerous types of solutions are available on the market. Examples of some of the most common PaaS solutions include:

  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk
  • Salesforce Heroku
  • Google App Engine
  • IBM Cloud
  • Red Hat OpenShift
  • DigitalOcean App Platform

PaaS Tools

Just like SaaS tools, PaaS tools are delivered via the internet, the difference being that they’re meant for software developers to create, test, deploy, and manage apps with.

The primary benefit of using PaaS tools for development work is that they allow developers to focus more on developing, managing, and scaling applications – not needing to worry about maintaining operating systems, storage, infrastructure, etc. (which are all managed by the PaaS vendor).

For example, Red Hat OpenShift is one of the more popular PaaS tools on the market. Developers use this tool to streamline the way they build and deploy web applications via container and Kubernetes-based technologies.

Advantages of PaaS

PaaS allows developers to create scalable, cost-effective applications more efficiently and at a faster pace compared to developing in traditional on-premises environments.

One of the biggest advantages of PaaS is that it frees developers from needing to install, maintain, and manage on-prem software and hardware – allowing them to focus solely on application development and lifecycle optimization.

Below are some of the main benefits and functionalities that PaaS solutions offer:

  • Ability for organizations to build and deploy applications without needing to manage or maintain underlying infrastructure
  • Diverse availability of application platforms
  • Ability to increase the productivity of development teams
  • Offered on a per-use or monthly fee basis, making it affordable for most project types
  • Advanced automation capabilities and considerably less maintenance tasks
  • Removes the complexities of load balancing, scaling, and distributing dependent services
  • Allows organizations to adopt new offerings and technologies without complete overhauls of existing business processes

Disadvantages of PaaS

The global PaaS market is on track to be worth $54 billion by the end of 2021 and will reach over $88 billion by 2025. However, even with this considerable amount of adoption and growth, organizations need to carefully consider the potential drawbacks of PaaS.

As mentioned in the “Risks” section above, there are two major potential challenges associated with PaaS. Below is a high-level overview of each disadvantage.

Vendor Dependency

One of the more well-known drawbacks of PaaS is how users can potentially become overdependent on their chosen provider’s software, tools, infrastructure, and services.

For example, if a vendor makes any changes to internal processes, pricing models, or infrastructure, and those changes have a negative impact on the user, the user will have no choice but to flex with those changes (because they’re so highly dependent on the vendor’s services). This can oftentimes cause significant issues for development, operations, and business teams.

Data Security

All major PaaS vendors utilize rigorous security standards, protocols, and built-in features/services to mitigate security-related risk as much as possible.

However, the recent rise in data breaches, hacking attacks, and zero-day exploits have left CIOs and other tech leaders wary of adopting new technologies – especially when those technologies are “public” (such as a public PaaS solution).

Users need to consider potential security concerns of the specific PaaS solution they are interested in deploying, because the inherent lack of control of underlying PaaS infrastructure can translate to a possible vulnerability – in addition to normal user-side security concerns.

Conclusion

Since its introduction in 2006, PaaS has become a $40+ billion global market, with some estimates by Allied Market Research placing its value in 2030 to be over $300 billion.

PaaS allows businesses to develop, deploy, and scale applications in a more efficient manner, while typically lowering costs and increasing staff productivity.

If your organization is looking to streamline its application development lifecycle, go to market faster, and leverage the full power of cloud computing – utilizing PaaS is essential.

FAQ

What is PaaS in cloud computing?

In the PaaS model, the cloud provider manages the infrastructure (e.g. networking, hardware, virtualization) and platform (e.g. operating system, middleware, runtime), while the user builds and manages software (e.g. data and applications).

What are the differences between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS?

While all three service models are cloud-based, there are several differences between them. IaaS is infrastructure, PaaS is platform, and SaaS is software. If you visualize a pyramid, IaaS would be the bottom layer (e.g. compute and storage), PaaS is the middle layer (e.g. app development, deployment, management), and SaaS is at the top (e.g. the actual software accessed by end users).

What is an example of PaaS?

Heroku, which is a platform service for developers to host, test, deploy, and manage applications over the internet. Millions of apps have been created and deployed by dev teams using Heroku as their PaaS of choice. The company is owned by Salesforce and was founded in 2007.

What are the characteristics of Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

Notable PaaS characteristics include multi-tenant architecture, web-based UI with deep customization options, usage-based pricing models, powerful database customization features, and the ability to create, test, deploy, and manage apps.

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About the author

Gregory James
Gregory James

Greg has been a content professional for 10+ years. As a writer with SaM Solutions USA, he seeks to deliver value to readers via relevant, actionable insights into complex topics.

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