Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Stephen Boyer, Mark Cravotta, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Greg Schulz

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA, Security, Big Data Journal, SDN Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

PaaS, Present, and Future

Platform as a Service is more than just the buzzword of the day – it’s the development & deployment approach of our dreams

Recently large numbers of consumers in the US were understandably upset and angry when online purchases that they made in the days just prior to Christmas were not delivered in time. Yet it was not so long ago that online (and traditional mail order) purchases almost always took a very long time, often weeks, to arrive. Order-to-delivery times of a few days, now considered normal, were unheard of and overnight was almost impossible to achieve.

This is just one more example of the many ways in which instant gratification has become the norm rather than the exception. People expect answers and results immediately, whether they are online or operating in the physical world. In information technology, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is another evolution toward faster, "instant" gratification. PaaS offers a new way to support and deliver applications, leveraging cloud technology. It is still enabling the same activities involved with development and deployment that we have always practiced in IT, but with the cost, agility and scalability benefits of the cloud.

However, PaaS is faster - getting ideas to market quicker and opening new, cloud-based delivery options for existing applications. Because of the power it provides, it is clearly the "next big thing" for the developer community.

Understanding PaaS
Service is the key word in the PaaS acronym. Empowered by cloud computing service options, a PaaS computing platform can deliver a solution stack of services. PaaS service providers, in turn, offer up tools and libraries that support development, testing and instant deployment. It sounds simple and it is. To use an automotive analogy, it's like the development of electric starters... early Model Ts and other silent-film-era vehicles needed to be started by hand - like giant lawnmowers. At best it was unpleasant. At its worst, it could be dangerous.

But good engineering and new technology made electric starting systems affordable for everyone. No one missed the old way of doing things - people could concentrate on the task of driving and getting some place rather than the tricky art of simply starting the car.

PaaS is similar. It takes the familiar design-develop-deploy process and eliminates a lot of the cost and unpleasantness so you can concentrate on innovating, getting to market, and making money.

While there are many flavors of PaaS vendors, the common thread of offering application hosting services and deployment options is pretty much universal.

To make those concepts more understandable, I like to put PaaS into a visual structure that contrasts traditional on-premise practices with Infrastructure-a-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). In my simplified schematic (see illustration), the orange color denotes the functions that you need to worry about yourself. In the on-premises world, storage, server, networking, virtualization, the operating system, middleware, data, and applications all "belong" to you. It's a craft industry model where almost everything is procured, operated, managed, and customized by you and your organization. There are broad similarities from organization to organization, but there is always a lot of "reinventing the wheel."

For example, if performance is suffering due to storage limits (or even backups that are getting out of hand), you need to think about acquiring more hardware, refining tiering schemas, data management policies, retention goals, and more. Or if you need to bring remote users into the mix, it's up to you to provide the infrastructure.

For some organizations, that's fine. Maybe you are big enough that you can afford to be expert in every aspect and every layer of the stack. But for most organizations, simplifying the picture and focusing more on areas where they can better add value makes sense. Thus, IaaS - typified by services like Rackspace and AWS - has become a hugely popular option for deploying new or supplemental capacity and capability, and even providing a total replacement for on-premise investments.

The cloud-based IaaS providers offer physical or virtual machines and storage and the ability to scale services up and down according to customers' varying requirements (a so-called utility model).

PaaS Is the Next Step
PaaS takes the proven approach of IaaS and adds value - the expertise and the specific technology of the operating system and middleware layers - so that you can focus on your data and your key applications. While IaaS provides the elements of cloud computing to those with the capabilities to build their own platforms, PaaS goes a step further, delivering complex and highly labor-intensive middleware technology patterns.

PaaS is flexible and powerful - allowing self-service and self-provisioning of resources to support cloud architectures.

With PaaS, you bring your application, and the PaaS provider takes care of everything else, including:

  • Internet connectivity
  • Power
  • hardware
  • Operating systems
  • Databases
  • Web servers
  • Application servers
  • Monitoring
  • Backup
  • Restore
  • Failover
  • Scaling

Choices and the Market
Although PaaS is new, it's rapidly gaining momentum, with growth projected at 48 percent annually by Technavio, the research firm, and topping $6 billion in value by 2016.

As with any new technology or approach to doing business PaaS will appeal to different groups for different reasons. For example, PaaS can help ISVs extend the availability of a traditional software product or enable organizations to add new capabilities to their existing IT spectrum. It's also helpful to anyone wishing to achieve productivity gains, speed time to results, or reduce their capex costs.

Productivity PaaS offerings are often a model-driven approach to development and deployment that invoke high level programming languages, or even template-based software to help users, including those with little or no coding background, to create functioning business applications. Deployment is greatly simplified through PaaS because developers don't have to think about architecting, managing, or scaling the virtual machines that support the application.

PaaS offers a rapid route to SaaS if you want to be able to offer your application as a service and reach customers wherever they are. Likewise, if you are developing a new application, you want to eliminate boundaries. By choosing the right PaaS provider you can avoid concerns about development language or database technology. The PaaS provider can abstract those things in a way that allows you to focus on delivering functionality and value.

In the past, building an application required a commitment to a language or a database technology. With PaaS you don't need to be concerned about those issues. You only need to worry about your business domain expertise and usability.

Likewise, if you are aiming to modernize or use code you already have, PaaS will help expedite the trip to the cloud. It obviates the need to think about middleware and infrastructure and makes use of wizards and templates to update your application and even deliver new features quickly.

There are both public and private deployment options for PaaS. Many organizations love the idea of PaaS but, for a variety of reason, still balk at putting their mission-critical capabilities into a shared, public, environment. If that is the case for you, choose a PaaS that can be deployed in your own cloud environment where you can maintain some control, such as security and where data gets stored. This affords you the simplicity of PaaS and ensures future portability while providing the sense of security and ownership that many organizations still prefer.

Understanding some more about PaaS is the first step to selecting a provider. In addition, you should consider factors such:

  • Programming languages,
  • Database servers
  • Availability
  • Support
  • Ease of deployment and options
  • Portability
  • Security
  • Pricing

PaaS Now
PaaS technologies are so compelling because they have the potential to accelerate software development while recasting the way IT supports application development.

As you adopt PaaS, be sure to maintain a balance between the desire for speed and the necessity of planning and control. Tooling can help, but people are crucial too. As with any technological shift, PaaS adoption requires changes in how people work and demands collaboration if it is to be as successful as possible.

Last, but not least, PaaS should be viewed and acted upon as a substantial strategic opportunity - a chance to align agendas across IT and across the business. Development, operations, security, and infrastructure choices are all part of the mix with PaaS, providing a "once in a generation" opportunity to clarify, improve, and strengthen everything you do.

More Stories By Karen Tegan Padir

Karen Tegan Padir joined Progress Software in 2012 as senior vice president and business line executive for application development and subsequently moved into the CTO role. Among her previous experiences, she was a member of the Java Platform, Enterprise Edition team at Sun, helping to create one of most important “next big things” for developers.

Comments (1)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Cloud Expo Breaking News
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudian, Inc., the leading provider of hybrid cloud storage solutions, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudian is a Foster City, Calif.-based software company specializing in cloud storage. Cloudian HyperStore® is an S3-compatible cloud object storage platform that enables service providers and enterprises to build reliable, affordable and scalable hybrid cloud storage solutions. Cloudian actively partners with leading cloud computing environments including Amazon Web Services, Citrix Cloud Platform, Apache CloudStack, OpenStack and the vast ecosystem of S3 compatible tools and applications. Cloudian's customers include Vodafone, Nextel, NTT, Nifty, and LunaCloud. The company has additional offices in China and Japan.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, will discuss the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data and analysis are providing the pull to meet customer expectations of a widely connected, multi-dimensional universe of people, things, and information.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Esri has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Esri inspires and enables people to positively impact the future through a deeper, geographic understanding of the changing world around them. For more information, visit http://www.esri.com.
There will be 50 billion Internet connected devices by 2020. Today, every manufacturer has a propriety protocol and an app. How do we securely integrate these "things" into our lives and businesses in a way that we can easily control and manage? Even better, how do we integrate these "things" so that they control and manage each other so our lives become more convenient or our businesses become more profitable and/or safe? We have heard that the best interface is no interface. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Co-Founder & CTO at Octoblu, Inc., will discuss how these devices generate enough data to learn our behaviors and simplify/improve our lives. What if we could connect everything to everything? I'm not only talking about connecting things to things but also systems, cloud services, and people. Add in a little machine learning and artificial intelligence and now we have something interesting...
After a couple of false starts, cloud-based desktop solutions are picking up steam, driven by trends such as BYOD and pervasive high-speed connectivity. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT, cuts through the hype and the acronyms, and discusses the emergence of full-featured cloud workspaces that do for the desktop what cloud infrastructure did for the server. He’ll discuss VDI vs DaaS, implementation strategies and evaluation criteria.
Cloud computing started a technology revolution; now DevOps is driving that revolution forward. By enabling new approaches to service delivery, cloud and DevOps together are delivering even greater speed, agility, and efficiency. No wonder leading innovators are adopting DevOps and cloud together! In his session at DevOps Summit, Andi Mann, Vice President of Strategic Solutions at CA Technologies, will explore the synergies in these two approaches, with practical tips, techniques, research data, war stories, case studies, and recommendations.
Cloud Computing is evolving into a Big Three of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Cloud 360: Multi-Cloud Bootcamp, being held Nov 4–5, 2014, in conjunction with 15th Cloud Expo in Santa Clara, CA, delivers a real-world demonstration of how to deploy and configure a scalable and available web application on all three platforms. The Cloud 360 Bootcamp, led by Janakiram MSV, an analyst with Gigaom Research, is the first bootcamp that introduces the core concepts of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) based on the workings of the Big Three platforms – Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine, and Azure VMs. Bootcamp attendees will get to see the big picture and also receive the knowledge needed to make the best cloud decisions for their business applications and entire enterprise IT organization.
“Distrix fits into the overall cloud and IoT model around software-defined networking. There’s a broad category around software-defined networking that’s focused on data center, and we focus on the WAN,” explained Jay Friedman, President of Distrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the Internet of @ThingsExpo, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Internet of @ThingsExpo 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading IoT industry players in the world.
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at 15th Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, Vice President, Product Strategy of LogMeIn's Xively IoT Platform, will show you how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
“The Internet of Things is a wave that has arrived and it’s growing really fast. The concern at Aria Systems is making sure that people understand the ramifications of their attempts to monetize whatever it is they build on the Internet of Things," explained C Brendan O’Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect at Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the Internet of @ThingsExpo, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Internet of @ThingsExpo 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading IoT industry players in the world.
The Internet of Things is a natural complement to the cloud and related technologies such as Big Data, analytics, and mobility. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Joe Weinman will lay out four generic strategies – digital disciplines – to exploit emerging digital technologies for strategic advantage. Joe Weinman has held executive leadership positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, and Telx, in areas such as corporate strategy, business development, product management, operations, and R&D.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DevOps.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's “DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo,” which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. DevOps.com is where the world meets DevOps. It is the largest collection of original content relating to DevOps on the web today Featuring up-to-the-minute news, feature stories, blogs, bylined articles and more, DevOps.com is where the thought leaders of the DevOps movement make their ideas known.
There are 182 billion emails sent every day, generating a lot of data about how recipients and ISPs respond. Many marketers take a more-is-better approach to stats, preferring to have the ability to slice and dice their email lists based numerous arbitrary stats. However, fundamentally what really matters is whether or not sending an email to a particular recipient will generate value. Data Scientists can design high-level insights such as engagement prediction models and content clusters that allow marketers to cut through the noise and design their campaigns around strong, predictive signals, rather than arbitrary statistics. SendGrid sends up to half a billion emails a day for customers such as Pinterest and GitHub. All this email adds up to more text than produced in the entire twitterverse. We track events like clicks, opens and deliveries to help improve deliverability for our customers – adding up to over 50 billion useful events every month. While SendGrid data covers only abo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that the Web Host Industry Review has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 2000, The Web Host Industry Review has made a name for itself as the foremost authority of the Web hosting industry providing reliable, insightful and comprehensive news, reviews and resources to the hosting community. TheWHIR Blogs provides a community of expert industry perspectives. The Web Host Industry Review Magazine also offers a business-minded, issue-driven perspective of interest to executives and decision-makers. WHIR TV offers on demand web hosting video interviews and web hosting video features of the key persons and events of the web hosting industry. WHIR Events brings together like-minded hosting industry professionals and decision-makers in local communities. TheWHIR is an iNET Interactive property.