What Is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

What Is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

A set of services to build and manage modern applications in the digital era—on premises or in the cloud.

 

What Is PaaS?

PaaS delivers the infrastructure and middleware components that 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, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

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

A Brief 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

The emergence of cloud computing changed the 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 only suited 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.

Key Business Drivers of PaaS Adoption

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—for example, 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

    • Eliminate and simplify tasks for professional administrators (DBA, SysAdmin, DevOps, SecOps)
    • Increase IT administrator productivity
    • Enable rapid scalability
    • Increase developer speed and quality
    • Drive down IT costs

     

    • Enables self-service provisioning
    • Highly integrated 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

    • Increase revenue
    • Improve service to customers, employees, and partners
    • Increase analyst and user productivity
    • Increase IT focus on business outcomes rather than platform management

     

    • Provide easy-to-use coding environments for end users
    • Build and extend applications quickly—for developers and non-technical users
    • Easily leverage emerging technologies, such as AI, natural language processing (NLP), IoT, blockchain, and analytics
  • Risk reduction

    • Reduce security threats and disruption
    • Provide high availability
    • Minimal downtime and data loss
    • Ensure rapid recovery

     

    • Automated patch management
    • Zero-trust resource access model
    • Data encryption by default
    • Unified identity and security management
    • Cross-regional availability automation supported by high-speed networks
    • High SLA guarantees

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

One PaaS, Multiple Clouds and Providers

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 multi-cloud usage will increase to 85 percent in 2018. 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 IT portfolio: Multiple operational platforms are a reality. For operational excellence, use a single toolset to actively control security and management across 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.

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
    • Use prebuilt, ready-to-use adapters for seamless integration of on-premises and cloud applications
    • Simplify extensions with point-and-click visual development
    • Real-time, fault-tolerant data integration and replication services for a wide variety of on-premises and cloud databases
    • Rely on an API catalog for consistency and quality
    • Integration services and supporting analytics
    • Ensure data provenance and governance
    • Developer productivity and tools including issue tracking, code versioning, wikis, agile-development tools, continuous integration, and delivery automation
    • Support for open-source languages, platforms, and frameworks without compromising portability
    • API-first development components, services, and processes for back- and front-end developers
    • Browser-based visual development environment
    • Mobile application platform with open messaging, data and service integration, NLP chatbots, and management
    • Language and tools interoperability between on-premises and cloud platforms
  • Blockchain Enablement

    • API support to a blockchain service to securely exchange information and transactions
  • Migration of Workloads to the Cloud

    • Multiplatform interoperability for tools, workloads for rapid DevTest deployment, disaster recovery, and production environments
    • Prepackaged application-migration tools
    • Support for third-party and homegrown applications
  • Support Business Analytics

    • High-volume data ingestion and transformation tools
    • Data management for structured and unstructured data
    • Visual end user, analyst, and data-exploration tools
    • Large data set performance optimizations
    • Deep and advanced analytics tools and techniques for statistical, predictive, and machine-learning analytics
    • Open enterprise reporting for web and mobile devices
    • IT analytics
    • Unified, proactive monitoring across your infrastructure using a unified data store for all user experience, performance, and log data
    • Real-time insights derived from anomaly detection using machine learning
    • Ability to schedule, execute, and report on all tasks
    • Application performance monitoring for rapid problem isolation
    • Application and infrastructure configuration assessments
  • Support Modern Security and Compliance

    • Security monitoring and analytics for rapid detection and remediation, based on machine learning, user-session awareness, and up-to-date threat-intelligence context
    • Modern identity and access management built with identity standards that can be leveraged by other cloud-based services (Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)
    • Integrated multicloud and on-premises security tools