What Is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

PaaS is 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
Drive innovation and business transformation in the cloud with PaaS.

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

Key Business Drivers of PaaS Adoption

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, 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

  • 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

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 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 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
  • 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
  • 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 environmen
  • 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