SDN Journal Authors: TJ Randall, Elizabeth White, Lori MacVittie, Hollis Tibbetts, David Paquette

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Cloud Security, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: 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.

@CloudExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Extreme Computing is the ability to leverage highly performant infrastructure and software to accelerate Big Data, machine learning, HPC, and Enterprise applications. High IOPS Storage, low-latency networks, in-memory databases, GPUs and other parallel accelerators are being used to achieve faster results and help businesses make better decisions. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at NVIDIA, focused on some of the unique ways extreme computing is...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, will discuss the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docke...
In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Claude Remillard, Principal Program Manager in Developer Division at Microsoft, will contrast how his team used config as code and immutable patterns for continuous delivery of microservices and apps to the cloud. He will show the immutable patterns helps developers do away with most of the complexity of config as code-enabling scenarios such as rollback, zero downtime upgrades with far greater simplicity. He will also have live demos of building immutable pipe...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Coalfire will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Coalfire is the trusted leader in cybersecurity risk management and compliance services. Coalfire integrates advisory and technical assessments and recommendations to the corporate directors, executives, boards, and IT organizations for global brands and organizations in the technology, cloud, health...
So you think you are a DevOps warrior, huh? Put your money (not really, it’s free) where your metrics are and prove it by taking The Ultimate DevOps Geek Quiz Challenge, sponsored by DevOps Summit. Battle through the set of tough questions created by industry thought leaders to earn your bragging rights and win some cool prizes.
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Transparent Cloud Computing (T-Cloud) Consortium will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Transparent Cloud Computing Consortium (T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data proces...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MathFreeOn will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MathFreeOn is Software as a Service (SaaS) used in Engineering and Math education. Write scripts and solve math problems online. MathFreeOn provides online courses for beginners or amateurs who have difficulties in writing scripts. In accordance with various mathematical topics, there are more tha...
Governments around the world are adopting Safe Harbor privacy provisions to protect customer data from leaving sovereign territories. Increasingly, global companies are required to create new instances of their server clusters in multiple countries to keep abreast of these new Safe Harbor laws. Is it worth it? In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Adam Rogers, Managing Director of Anexia, Inc., will discuss how to keep your data legal and still stay in business.
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential Internet of Things Brand by Onalytica in the ‘The Internet of Things Landscape 2015: Top 100 Individuals and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed Twitter conversations around the #IoT debate to uncover the most influential brands and individuals driving the conversation. Onalytica captured data from 56,224 users. The PageRank based methodology they use to extract influencers on a particular topic (tweets mentioning #InternetofThings or #IoT in this ...
Successful transition from traditional IT to cloud computing requires three key ingredients: an IT architecture that allows companies to extend their internal best practices to the cloud, a cost point that allows economies of scale, and automated processes that manage risk exposure and maintain regulatory compliance with industry regulations (FFIEC, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, FISMA). The unique combination of VMware, the IBM Cloud, and Cloud Raxak, a 2016 Gartner Cool Vendor in IT Automation, provides a co...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Niagara Networks will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Niagara Networks offers the highest port-density systems, and the most complete Next-Generation Network Visibility systems including Network Packet Brokers, Bypass Switches, and Network TAPs.