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    Home / Definitions / Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
    Servers 7 min read

    Short for Platform-as-a-Service, PaaS is defined as a computing platform being delivered as a service. The platform is outsourced in place of a company or data center purchasing and managing their own hardware and software layers. Typically, PaaS-based approaches facilitate deployment of applications, application development, testing, and also supports the building, testing, and hosting of Web applications. The approach allows IT to develop, test, deploy, host, and also update from a single streamlined environment.

    What is PaaS?

    PaaS is a cloud computing delivery model that provides applications with everything they need to run, such as servers, middleware, operating systems, storage, virtualization, and networking, while keeping them independent of the underlying infrastructure.

    The solution, comprised of an integrated ecosystem of hardware, software, and storage resources, allows companies to build upon third-party platforms without having to set up their in-house server farms or worry about security.

    Sun Microsystems identifies Platform as a Service (PaaS)as one of three layers of cloud computing, in addition to Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

    What challenges does PaaS address?

    PaaS resolves the challenges of setting up and maintaining an onsite software environment necessary for application development. In practice, PaaS addresses these issues with cloud-based technology solutions.

    Enterprises using the cloud-based cut information technology (IT) costs by letting the provider take responsibility for all elements of cloud computing, including server maintenance, uptime, scalability, and backup. Individual developers can continue to use familiar programming tools while benefiting from built-in security features that prevent unauthorized access to applications.

    The net result is more time for coders to devote to their craft and greater productivity across teams. More importantly, enterprises get faster application delivery and less complexity in an increasingly demanding environment.

    Common PaaS scenarios

    • Development: Create, test, and deploy applications without managing infrastructure. 
    • Test/Quality assurance: Automate software testing by provisioning environments on demand for every stage of development. 
    • Internet of Things (IoT) devices: PaaS is being adopted by IoT because it allows IoT devices to connect directly to data repositories that are easily managed by cloud services. 
    • Development framework: PaaS provides frameworks developers can leverage when building and deploying applications to make them faster to develop, easier to maintain, and less expensive.
    • Business Intelligence (BI) Analytics: Cloud computing platforms offer business intelligence (BI) as a service through SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), analytics tools, and web services.
    • Low-code development platform: PaaS allows developers to develop applications based on low-code/no-code technology with minimal configuration.
    • Microservices architecture: Microservices architecture involves developing an application using small components, each able to run independently alongside other microservices or external components. 
    • Application programming interface (API) development and management: PaaS can be used for rapidly building APIs and managing their life cycle with minimal overhead, including APIs meant to consume third-party service(s). 
    • Agile development and DevOps: Use cases involving continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) build on PaaS’s ability to provide developers a platform where they can build, test, deploy, and manage application deployments. 

    Types of Platform-as-a-Service

    There are several types of PaaS currently available for cloud developers. It is important to understand that different PaaS models offer different benefits. They include

    Public PaaS 

    This type of solution gives users access to large-scale computing resources like virtual machines (VMs), databases, containers, and services like storage on the public cloud. Users access these resources via an API or graphical user interface (GUI) such as a dashboard. 

    Private PaaS 

    Private PaaS solutions allow enterprises to build applications with their team on private infrastructure. This model provides IT teams with dedicated servers running behind their firewall. However, they lack flexibility since they cannot use them with other organizations outside their company infrastructure. These solutions tend to be more expensive than public PaaS options because they do not make use of shared infrastructure.

    Hybrid PaaS 

    With hybrid PaaS, customers get both on-premises servers and hosted private clouds accessible through a single control panel, which allows companies to leverage their existing investments while moving to more agile development models with higher availability than traditional methods. 

    AI PaaS

    AI PaaS offers developers all of the necessary hardware, software, and services required to build powerful machine learning applications. Examples include speech recognition software for call centers, real-time content moderation systems for customer support lines, image recognition technology for eecommerce sites, and more. 

    cPaaS

    Communications PaaS, or cPaaS, helps enterprises optimize communications between employees and third parties through integrated messaging, analytics, and web collaboration tools. 

    iPaaS

    Integration PaaS, or iPaaS, provides out-of-the-box integration connectors for enterprises to link data, processes, and services across public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises settings. iPaaS enables businesses to connect multiple apps efficiently and securely with APIs, including custom-made apps into IT systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRMs

    mPaaS

    Mobile PaaS, or mPaaS, provides a full suite of mobile capabilities, including device management and app lifecycle management across hybrid environments, so organizations can focus on developing business applications rather than deploying specific device configurations for end users. 

    Open PaaS 

    Open PaaS is a free, open-source software packaged and deployed on top of many commercially supported operating systems, offering greater stability than traditional custom deployments. With industry standards controlling its design and creation, more help is also readily available via online community forums.

    Advantages of PaaS

    • Low complexity: The complexity of PaaS’s infrastructure is not a burden for users because these are hidden behind an abstraction layer provided by PaaS vendors. 
    • Pay-per-use: Users only have to pay for resources used, unlike purchasing servers which get underutilized eventually and will always cost something to maintain. 
    • Virtualized platform: Because there is no hardware or operating system to install and configure, new applications can be deployed in minutes instead of weeks. 
    • Reduce development time: All necessary software and services required for running an application are packaged into lightweight containers, providing isolated environments without any dependency problems. 
    • Highly scalable: Releasing new features becomes very easy. Users can simply create another container with a new set of features or upgrade the existing container instantly and routing traffic onto it while keeping the old version working at full speed until everything is rolled out successfully.

    Disadvantages of PaaS

    • Vendor lock-in: Users build applications based on the provider platform, and it may not be easy to migrate applications between providers. 
    • Performance: Performance issues may occur in some cases as developers lack detailed knowledge about underlying hardware resources and how they interact with each other and the software running on them. 
    • Data privacy: Sensitive information related to customers or business partners can be exposed if data is lost, stolen, or accidentally leaked due to misconfiguration or malfunctioning components. 
    • Dependency: Applications relying heavily on specific features of a specific cloud vendor will become non-functional if migration from one vendor’s infrastructure to another fails for whatever reason.

    Examples of PaaS

    Some popular Platform-as-a-Service examples include:

    Alternatives to PaaS

    PaaS has become an increasingly popular way of delivering applications and services. It makes it easier for developers to get started and avoid many problems that can be encountered when working on their infrastructure such as provisioning and maintaining hardware, deploying software, etc.

    Whilst extremely popular, there are several cloud service alternatives available if PaaS doesn’t suit an organization’s specific needs. Companies can consider other components of everything as a service (XaaS) as an alternative.