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What Is PaaS?

PaaS (platform as a service)—not to be confused with SaaS (software as a service)—is a set of cloud services used to build and manage modern applications and data either on-premises or in the cloud. PaaS delivers infrastructure and middleware components in the cloud that enable developers and IT administrators to build and manage mobile apps and web applications.

To aid productivity, PaaS offers ready-to-use programming language components that enable the development of new capabilities within applications. These capabilities include innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition, PaaS also includes suites of application development tools, including cloud native services, Kubernetes, Docker and container engines, and more.

In addition to developer support, PaaS provides features and tools such as big data analytics, content management, database and data management, systems management, and cloud security for analysts, end users, and professional IT administrators.

For enterprises, PaaS comes with the fundamental benefits of cloud computing, including transparent pricing, turnkey provisioning, on-demand scalability, disaster recovery, and intuitive dashboards for easier management. As a result, businesses can

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

The history of PaaS

Until the advent of PaaS, IT often had to manage individually licensed products. This meant having an individual process for any number of actions, including product evaluation, purchasing, integration, deployment, patching, upgrading, and so on. Frequently these products were sourced from multiple vendors, each with a unique approach to licensing, logistics, and security, making management increasingly complex and often resulting in gaps that created risk.

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

PaaS adoption: key business drivers

For enterprises, one of the most important production workload requirements is predictable and consistent performance to ensure business continuity. This requirement is backed by explicit commitments to service-level agreements.

To be truly effective, both the PaaS and information-as-a-service (IaaS) layers must work together. Good examples of technology capabilities that support consistent performance include scalability and fault tolerance without a required system shutdown and restart.

Most IT decisions are justified using three principles—efficiency, effectiveness, and risk reduction. PaaS solutions deliver on each of these principles in a variety of ways, including the following:

  • IT efficiency: PaaS speeds provisioning, increases automation, standardizes deployments, eliminates routine tasks, and improves scalability.
  • Effectiveness and business innovation: PaaS drives top- and bottom-line results by allowing IT to be more responsive to business opportunities. For example, PaaS enables the efficient development of mobile applications, supports more-innovative user experiences via chatbots, delivers more-trusted transactions using blockchain, accelerates release cycles with containers and APIs, and improves data discovery and analytics.
  • Risk reduction: PaaS strengthens and simplifies security while accelerating responses to evolving threats across heterogeneous IT components. It increases business resiliency and reduces downtime while preventing data loss and speeding recovery.

How to choose the best PaaS provider

In evaluating PaaS solutions, it’s vital to consider how your organization will evolve over time. Technology is rapidly changing, so employing solutions that offer maximum flexibility puts your enterprise at an advantage. To get the most out 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 environments.
  • Do not force vendor lock-in: PaaS solutions built on industry standards will keep IT nimble going forward. Those that force vendor lock-in face obsolescence and rewrites as technologies, regulations, and business conditions evolve.

Why PaaS?

Many organizations face growing pressure to accelerate innovation while reducing IT costs. With PaaS, developers and IT professionals can develop and deploy business applications without the hurdles associated with procuring, deploying, running, and managing infrastructure. The result is often an environment capable of instant self-service access to both application development and deployment.

In turn, this means that PaaS provides businesses with the speed and flexibility to drive numerous benefits, including

  • Better capabilities for collaboration
  • Improved productivity
  • Increased agility
  • New paths to business insights

PaaS also offers subscription-based pricing, which ultimately keeps costs predictable and manageable.

The future of PaaS

As PaaS solutions evolve, they’ll continue to offer innovation while simplifying resource and application management, enabling enterprises to reap the continued benefits of fewer administrative tasks and less complexity across the entire deployment and management process. From installation, setup, and configuration to management, maintenance, and auditing, PaaS solutions will keep expanding and refining their capabilities. Some of the ways PaaS solutions will achieve this include

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

With the benefits of PaaS continuing to grow, the time for enterprises and IT staff to get on board is now. Organizations of all sizes can reap the many current benefits while building the foundation for future evolution:

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. These are some of the most popular use cases in the industry today.

Connecting and extending your applications

  • Uses prebuilt, ready-to-use adapters for the 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

Supporting modern application development

  • Uses developer productivity 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
  • Uses a mobile application platform with open messaging, data and service integration, natural language processing chatbots, and management
  • Provides language and tools interoperability between on-premises and cloud platforms

Enabling blockchain

  • Enables API support for a blockchain service to securely exchange information and complete transactions

Supporting migration of workloads to the cloud

  • Uses multiplatform interoperability for tools, workloads for rapid DevTest deployment, disaster recovery, and production environments
  • Has prepackaged cloud migration tools
  • Supports third-party and homegrown applications

Supporting business analytics

  • Uses high-volume data ingestion and transformation tools
  • Employs data center management for structured and unstructured data
  • Has visual end user, analyst, and data-exploration tools
  • Performs large dataset 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

Supporting 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 built-in identity and access management that can be leveraged by other cloud-based services
  • Uses integrated multicloud and on-premises security tools