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What Is PaaS?

PaaS, or platform as a service, is a set of cloud services to build and manage modern applications in the digital era—on-premises or in the cloud.

PaaS delivers the infrastructure and middleware components in the cloud to enable developers, IT administrators, and end users to build, integrate, migrate, deploy, secure, and manage mobile and web applications.

To aid productivity, PaaS offers ready-to-use programming components that allow developers to build new capabilities into their applications, including innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT). This also includes suites of application development tools, including cloud native services, Kubernetes, Docker and container engines, and more.

PaaS services also include solutions for analysts, end users, and professional IT administrators, including big data analytics, content management, database and data management, systems management, and cloud security.

PaaS provides all the fundamental benefits of cloud computing, from transparent pricing and turnkey provisioning to on-demand scalability and disaster recovery—all managed in a consistent manner via easy-to-use dashboards. As a result, businesses can:

  • Standardize and simplify IT operations
  • Speed business innovation with ready-to-use solutions
  • Reduce operational, security, and governance risks

History of PaaS

Until the advent of PaaS, IT often had to evaluate, purchase, assemble, deploy, patch, upgrade, and maintain individually licensed products. Frequently, they were sourced from multiple vendors, each with their own approach to licensing, installation, configuration, security, and integration. This made the business, management, and integration process that much more complex.

As the marketplace matured, so did the abundance of middleware components. In response, providers attempted to simplify the complexity by creating preintegrated middleware suites. However, for organizations that didn’t standardize on a single-vendor platform, cross-vendor management and integration remained a burden. Both developers and DevOps groups have the ongoing responsibility to manage this complexity.

Examples of PaaS services
Application development Business solutions
Development tools and processes Business intelligence
Containers Analytics
API catalog Security
Integration Management
Mobility Data management
Chatbots Blockchain
Artificial intelligence and machine learning IoT applications
IoT components Content management

PaaS adoption: Key cloud and business drivers

The emergence of cloud computing changed the applications equation, and application development platforms became ideal candidates to simplify this complexity. In the mid-2000s, providers began offering an integrated set of middleware cloud services delivered via standardized APIs: PaaS was born. However, in those pioneering days, providers essentially provided only server, storage, and network services, and PaaS solutions were suited only to low-risk, low-requirement development environments.

With application development success, use cases evolved to lightweight production workloads, and with that transition, enterprise requirements increased. This in turn increased demand for proven enterprise middleware. As a result, modern PaaS solutions grew to include robust enterprise middleware capabilities.

For enterprises, predictable and consistent performance that ensures business continuity is one of the most important production workload requirements. These capabilities are backed by explicit commitments to service-level agreements (SLAs). To be truly effective, both the PaaS and information-as-a-service (IaaS) layers must work together. Good examples include scalability and fault tolerance without system shutdown and restart.

Enterprises also have a higher standard for exerting governance. Across PaaS, it’s not enough to prevent threats; it’s also necessary to demonstrate that the threats were thwarted. As cloud usage expands, configurations in both production and development drift from standards and vulnerabilities emerge. Enterprise PaaS provides comprehensive and consistent logging and audit tools.

All developers are challenged to increase productivity and quality. Yet, as enterprise organizations scale and innovate, development processes falter due to assemble-it-yourself continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) environments. Enterprise PaaS development needs to rely on prebuilt yet open integrated development environments.

The digital age has only increased the demand for PaaS. As the middleware layer grows more complex, the business demands application delivery at an ever-faster pace. Not surprisingly, the adoption of PaaS—including both public and private PaaS solutions—continues to accelerate.

Most IT decisions are justified according to three principles—efficiency, effectiveness, and risk reduction. Here’s how PaaS solutions deliver on each of those principles:

  • IT efficiency: PaaS speeds provisioning, increases automation, standardizes deployments, eliminates routine tasks, and improves scalability.
  • Business innovation: PaaS drives top- and bottom-line results by allowing IT to be more responsive to business opportunities such as for mobile applications, support for more innovative user experiences (chatbots), more trusted transactions (blockchain), faster release cycles (containers and APIs), and data discovery (analytics).
  • Risk reduction: PaaS strengthens and simplifies security and speeds responses to evolving threats across heterogeneous IT components. It increases business resiliency and reduces downtime while preventing data loss and speeding recovery.
Key objectives How PaaS supports
IT efficiency
  • Eliminates and simplifies tasks for professional administrators (DBA, system administrators, DevOps, SecOps)
  • Increases IT administrator productivity
  • Enables rapid scalability
  • Increases developer speed and quality
  • Drives down IT costs
  • Enables self-service provisioning
  • Integrates with IaaS services
  • Provides complete, API-first coding environments for developers
  • Enables extreme automation for lifecycle activities and operational activities
  • Uses common dashboard and tools for management and security processes
  • Reduces number of technology suppliers
Business innovation
  • Increases revenue
  • Improves service to customers, employees, and partners
  • Increases analyst and user productivity
  • Increases IT focus on business outcomes rather than platform management
  • Provides easy-to-use coding environments for end users
  • Builds and extends applications quickly—for developers and nontechnical users
  • Easily leverages emerging technologies such as AI, natural-language processing (NLP), IoT, blockchain, and analytics
Reduces risk
  • Reduces security threats and disruption
  • Provides high availability
  • Minimizes downtime and data loss
  • Ensures rapid recovery
  • Delivers automated patch management
  • Employs a zero-trust resource access model
  • Encrypts data by default
  • Unifies identity and security management
  • Provides cross-regional availability automation supported by high-speed networks
  • Features high SLA guarantees

PaaS best practices

Five best practices for platform as a service success. Staying ahead of the competition and keeping costs low are timeless business objectives. But there is a new way to meet them.

Platform as a service can help accelerate innovation, lower costs, and even transform your business. Here is how to get the cloud right.


Don’t abandon existing technology investments

Simplify and streamline PaaS adoption. Seek out a solution that allows you to continue to leverage on-premises technologies as well as IT skillset and expertise.


Keep the cloud platform simple and comprehensive

Combing disparate platforms from multiple vendors can be complex and costly. Therefore, keep things simple by choosing a unified PaaS solution. Leverage a cloud platform that is comprehensive and comes with a fully integrated suite of services and capabilities, including application development, data management, cloud native, business analytics, cloud integration, content management, mobile, IT operations management, etc.


Don’t compromise on enterprise cloud capabilities

Embracing PaaS may change a lot of things for the better, including costs, security, accessibility, and maintenance. But it doesn’t change your core service level requirements. Businesses should not compromise on their technology needs—delivering on performance, scalability, availability, reliability, and security.


Ensure portability with standards-based PaaS

Make sure your cloud platform services enables your business to move your apps and data between the cloud and on-premises with minimal effort and risk. Choose a standards-based PaaS solution with cloud integration capabilities.


Move app development and testing to PaaS first

Application development and testing is one of the most popular and easy-to-implement cloud use cases for PaaS. And it is easy to see why there is such quick adoption with application development and testing workloads. First, the risk is low by using nonproduction environments. Second, the benefits are high as you focus on building apps, rather than the setup and maintenance of development and testing environments.

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

How to choose the best PaaS provider

In evaluating PaaS solutions, it is vital to consider how your own organization will evolve over time. At the rate of change in technology today, solutions that support maximum flexibility are at an advantage. In other words, it is important to consider whether a PaaS provider has a true enterprise strategy.

For example, one key consideration is multicloud support. According to IDC, 75 percent of enterprise IT organizations were using multicloud solutions in 2017. The percentage of multicloud usage will increase to 85 percent in 2018. The flexibility to move workloads across on-premises, public, and private cloud environments enables businesses to mitigate risk, dynamically leverage optimal pricing, and meet evolving regulatory and governance requirements.

To ensure you can take full advantage of the promises of PaaS as your strategy evolves, consider workload and development options that

  • Support multicloud portability: A multicloud PaaS strategy requires easy workload portability across databases, containers, open source, and Java.
  • Unify controls across your IT portfolio: Multiple operational platforms are a reality. For operational excellence, use a single toolset to actively control security and management across hybrid clouds and on-premises.
  • Do not force vendor lock-in: PaaS solutions built on industry standards will keep IT nimble going forward, while those that force vendor lock-in face obsolescence and rewrites as technologies, regulations, and business conditions evolve.

Why platform as a service?

When competition’s fierce, everything hinges on getting to market first. And when margins are tight, it’s vital to continue innovating without letting costs spiral out of control. The growing pressure to accelerate innovation while reducing IT costs is driving many organizations to choose platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions.

With PaaS, developers and IT professionals can develop and deploy business applications without the cost and complexity of procuring, deploying, and managing any infrastructure. Delivering instant, self-service access to application development and deployment environments, PaaS provides businesses with the speed and flexibility to increase agility, better facilitate collaboration, boost productivity, and unlock invaluable business insights. It also offers subscription pricing to keep costs predictable and manageable.

PaaS use cases

There are many PaaS use cases and configurations. In some cases, developers assemble solutions from components, and in others, the solution is simply provisioned and ready to use. The most popular use cases in the industry today, include:

Here is a list of many popular PaaS use cases and their key features:

Developing and testing new applications

Significantly reduce development times and costs while increasing developer productivity.

Moving applications to the cloud:

Protect your existing investments and reduce data center costs—all while increasing the performance, availability, and scalability of your current enterprise applications.

Extending SaaS applications

Give your business the support it needs by providing solutions for specific challenges quickly and cost-effectively.

Analyzing big data

Easily access the compute resources to analyze vast quantities of data from multiple sources—and deliver faster, deeper insights to all your decision-makers.

Testing platform upgrades

Reduce the time, cost, and risk of software upgrades—and bring enhanced capabilities online without a hitch.

Modern, complete, future-proof: choosing the right PaaS platform

There are many PaaS use cases and configurations. In some cases, developers assemble solutions from components, and in others, the solution is simply provisioned and ready to use. Here is a list of popular PaaS use cases and their key features:

PaaS use cases Key features
Connects and extends your applications
  • Uses prebuilt, ready-to-use adapters for seamless integration of on-premises and cloud applications
  • Simplifies extensions with point-and-click visual development
  • Requires real-time, fault-tolerant data integration and replication services for a wide variety of on-premises and cloud databases
  • Relies on an API catalog for consistency and quality
  • Uses integration services and supporting analytics
  • Ensures data provenance and governance
Supports modern application development
  • Uses developer productivity and tools including issue tracking, code versioning, wikis, agile-development tools, continuous integration, and delivery automation
  • Supports open source languages, platforms, and frameworks without compromising portability
  • Has API-first development components, services, and processes for back- and front-end developers
  • Provides a browser-based visual development environment
  • Utilizes a mobile application platform with open messaging, data and service integration, NLP chatbots, and management
  • Provides language and tools interoperability between on-premises and cloud platforms
Enables blockchain
  • Enables API support to a blockchain service to securely exchange information and transactions
Supports migration of workloads to the cloud
  • Uses multiplatform interoperability for tools, workloads for rapid DevTest deployment, disaster recovery, and production environments
  • Has prepackaged application-migration tools
  • Supports third-party and homegrown applications
Supports business analytics
  • Uses high-volume data ingestion and transformation tools
  • Employs data management for structured and unstructured data
  • Has visual end user, analyst, and data-exploration tools
  • Performs large data set optimizations
  • Uses deep and advanced analytics tools and techniques for statistical, predictive, and machine-learning analytics
  • Provides open enterprise reporting for web and mobile devices
Supports modern security and compliance
  • Employs security monitoring and analytics for rapid detection and remediation based on machine learning, user-session awareness, and up-to-date threat-intelligence context
  • Has modern identity and access management built with identity standards that can be leveraged by other cloud-based services such as Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)
  • Uses integrated multicloud and on-premises security tools