Cloud computing, while regularly seen as one united concept that provides web-based services across a wide range of functions, actually comes in several forms that meet varying needs. Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS) all can play a vital role in maintaining a cloud-based environment. However, each of these solutions offer diverse opportunities in the overarching realm cloud computing and are rarely wholly interchangeable. For those who are active in development projects, like cloud-based software or cloud-based application creation and testing, PaaS solutions can be extremely important, regardless of a need for IaaS or SaaS products.
PaaS can function as a comprehensive development resource that allows the environment used for software construction to shift from on-site resources to the cloud. This can increase flexibility and functionality while decreasing server needs and the availability of in-house IT support staff, offering an improvement to the ways in which many companies approach development. However, standalone PaaS services may not be right for everyone, so it is very important to understand how PaaS works as well as any pros and cons before making a decision.
What Is PaaS?
Platform as a Service, or PaaS, is a cloud computing solution in which a third party provides the software and hardware resources needed to support the software development process. As a cloud-based opportunity, PaaS products are hosted using the provider’s infrastructure rather than in-house resources. This means that instead of installing large or cumbersome development tools onto local computers that require significant on-site server space, all development tools are provided via the internet in a way that is easier to access and use.
Unlike other forms of cloud-based services, PaaS is usually very specific to the development realm. Infrastructure comes in a few different options and software can take countless different forms, but PaaS solutions are almost always intended solely for software development projects. As such, companies exploring cloud computing products and services that are not involved in development likely will not want or need a PaaS solution. Most PaaS models include:
- The physical infrastructure required to support development
- Software solutions, like tools for building applications
- A graphic user interface, or GUI, that provides the avenues through which users can work
PaaS works by delivering all standard development tools in an online interface; instead of working solely from your work computer on site, it’s possible to log-in from anywhere to collaborate on projects, test new applications, or roll-out completed products.
PaaS architecture cannot fully replace a business’ infrastructure needs but is able to offer comprehensive services for development avenues. In addition to a development space, many PaaS solutions offer additional cloud-based resources to enhance software development, including support for varying languages, access to libraries, and database management systems. In all, this can be a compelling and affordable alternative to creating an internal environment hosted on in-house servers.
Why Is PaaS Important?
As an evolution of the concept of cloud computing, PaaS can be very important for companies that have development needs but do not have the time or resources to create an internal platform. Providing a suite of ready-to-use tools with a flexible GUI and automation that can speed up the transition from development to roll up, PaaS provides development opportunities that may not otherwise be available.
As with IaaS and SaaS, PaaS provides ways for small or growing companies to scale without over-investing in infrastructure that isn’t necessary. This can reduce costs and prevent the additional overhead that comes with hiring in-house staff. With greater avenues for operational success, employing cloud computing can facilitate internal growth without the sharp costs previously associated with employing cutting-edge solutions.
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Pros and Cons of PaaS
The Platform as a Service model comes with numerous benefits, but it isn’t right for everyone. Carefully consider these pros and cons when weighing whether or not PaaS is the right choice for your business.
Pros of PaaS
There are many advantages to using a PaaS service provider. These include:
- Reduced Costs: Maintaining a physical development infrastructure can be a big commitment. From the IT staff needed to maintain applications to the costly server space, a traditional environment is expensive. PaaS alleviates most of these costs, offering a more affordable alternative.
- Improved Time to Market: PaaS platforms often offer more options than a standard development environment can. When this includes automated tools and easier testing, it’s possible to release products to market on an accelerated timeline.
- Scalability: If your company is growing, it’s likely your development needs will change. It can be hard to properly update a physical environment, but PaaS solutions can grow with you, accommodating the evolving state of your business.
- Regular Updates: Software updates can be a burden, particularly when they need to be rolled out among individual machines. Most PaaS models offer regular and automatic updates, ensuring everyone is always using the most current tools for development.
- Flexibility: Rather than being tethered to a single machine or network, PaaS makes it possible to develop on the go, even when away from the office. PaaS virtual machines are available anywhere, at any time, meaning that developers can do more than ever before.
Cons of PaaS
Despite the advantages, PaaS isn’t perfect for everyone. These disadvantages can make PaaS products the wrong choice for companies with unique or specific needs.
- PaaS Provider Dependence: When using third-party architecture, as most PaaS solutions require, there’s a certain reliance on a PaaS vendor that can be challenging for those who like holding the reins. If something changes or service isn’t reliable, there’s little that can be done. Further, seeking help for issues means reaching out to an off-site help desk rather than turning to an in-house IT professional.
- Compatibility Challenges: For those who rely on other tools outside of the PaaS environment, compatibility can be an important. Before choosing a PaaS model, confirm that your selection complements the other resources you currently use or plan to use in the future.
- Lack of Customization: While plenty of PaaS products allow for ways to make an environment specific to a company’s own needs, there are limitations. Not all companies require extensive functionality that may be unique to in-house projects, but some do. Before moving forward with a PaaS product, companies are encouraged to evaluate their current platform and any peculiarities that could affect the transition process.
- Security Risks: When managing security in house, it’s possible to manage security in any manner desired. However, using a third-party means trusting that their tools are adequate to support your needs. A PaaS provider with poor security practices can put any project at risk.
Comparing PaaS and Internal Development Platforms
For companies that have long relied on internal development tools, making the switch to cloud computing can be both overwhelming and a little frightening. After all, this means taking an important part of operations and putting it in the hands of others. However, with the many advantages of PaaS, it’s not uncommon for companies to charge forward with a switch from on-site servers to cloud-based alternatives.
However, it’s important for companies to be educated in the differences between the two models. Making the switch may require increased flexibility and adaptability, especially as developers will be using new tools and interfaces. This may result in a learning curve that can delay projects and compromise output during the onboarding process. However, the automation tools offered in most PaaS solutions can more than make up for this experience, providing faster roll-outs once all developers are up to speed.
Further, internal development platforms are far more customizable than many PaaS options. While PaaS solutions often offer superior tools and more up-to-date resources, companies that choose this avenue may not be able to fine-tune platforms to fit their unique needs in the same way. Access to more tools isn’t always necessarily better – many companies will not need all of the available features, rendering their presence moot – so adapting to an interface that offers too much versus a more streamlined and customized interface can be a burden.
However, the PaaS model can usually go above and beyond what an internal solution can offer. As updates are automatic and tools are state-of-the-art, managing development projects can be a smoother, less stressful process. Further, companies have the opportunity to incorporate better or more efficient tools with which they may not be familiar currently, increasing available resources.
For companies that don’t have excessive development needs yet or aren’t facing niche needs will likely have few, if any, issues in making the switch. However, those who have a long history of work with internal systems may need to adjust viewpoint and practices in order to embrace a PaaS platform that is less customizable and more one-site-fits-all.
What Is the DevOps Model?
As technology has evolved, so have the ways in which teams interact. Historically, developers and IT teams have worked in relative peace but have had little to do with one another unless an issue arises. However, DevOps has sought to change this. An approach to taking development and IT from two siloed workflows into one symbiotic team, DevOps cultivates a culture of collaboration. A concept and a movement rather than a specific job function, DevOps facilitates a united goal for those in tech spaces.
For companies that want to streamline operations and unite technology-related job functions, PaaS can be a vital tool in supporting DevOps. By combining development and test environments into the same overarching system, developers have a better space in which to develop new projects and ensure they are working as desired. This creates a better way for IT support to assist, resulting one seamless way to guide the development process from all sides.
Cloud computing in general is beneficial for enterprises with DevOps objectives. However, in most circumstances, PaaS is a better choice than IaaS services in encouraging this mindset. The wrong IaaS solutions can create a disconnect that can complicate the development process instead of improving it. This kind of divide can make it harder for IT groups to offer the right support and can add more steps between initial development and going live with a new product.
Breaking Down PaaS vs IaaS
For companies with primary functions in the development space, the difference between PaaS and IaaS can get a little blurry. After all, when the majority of day-to-day operations involves development, the need for additional architecture may seem minor at best. However, in spite of this, it’s important to understand how these two concepts can work together, and where IaaS opportunities may be required in addition to PaaS solutions.
In the development space, PaaS avenues can accommodate most of what is required for supporting the regular course of business. However, this is where the effectiveness of PaaS comes to an end. Few, if any, companies have no needs beyond development; things like accounting and payroll software, customer relationship management, and even access to Microsoft Excel and Word are virtually ubiquitous. As these items do not live within a PaaS environment, alternative solutions will need to be implemented to meet these additional needs.
While PaaS fits into the role of operational efficiency, the IaaS model can support an entire organization. This can mean transitioning all resources, regardless of size or scale, to a third-party provider, either hosted by a public cloud or private one, which can free up in-house demands substantially. Instead of relying on a physical IT team to maintain servers and support software, this can be handled remotely, cutting down on overhead expenses.
IaaS and PaaS often work in conjunction, but businesses should note that they don’t have to. Those who wish to host development functions in the cloud but maintain other services on an in-house server are free to do so. The flexibility of PaaS products isn’t limited based on specific customer needs or expectations. However, those who are considering moving toward cloud-based hosting in any aspect of business are encouraged to do so across the board to avoid potential challenges in continuity and access.
Bridging the Gap Between IaaS and PaaS
The ways in which IaaS and PaaS can work together is something companies need to evaluate when making the choice to move to a cloud computing model. However, it’s also important to understand that combining these two services can cause unforeseen issues. Depending on the service provider, it’s not always easy to transition between systems, and two different sets of architecture – one for IaaS and one for PaaS – can complicate a choice that should be making technology easier to use, not harder.
However, there’s an easier way to encompass both cloud infrastructure and PaaS in a single atmosphere. Private cloud services with development tools can supercede what two individual solutions combined can offer. More comprehensive than an IaaS solution with built-in tools to support outside needs, a private cloud provides a secure environment that can accommodate a wide range of business needs. While IaaS providers focus solely on the infrastructure aspect of cloud computing, a private cloud goes above and beyond this.
For those considering a switch to cloud computing to facilitate both development tools and beyond, a managed private cloud platform provides security and stability in an environment that doesn’t require sharing resources like a public cloud dose. A managed private cloud goes a step further, offering third-party management for a more hands-off approach. Private clouds deliver PaaS solutions within a user’s firewall, creating a safer atmosphere for which users can take advantage.
For those seeking a better solution for cloud computing, Avatara’s CompleteCloud IT platform can provide safety, security, and functionality in a fully managed environment. From around-the-clock customer support and superior security to prevent against breaches and hacks, CompleteCloud can offer the benefits of an in-house private cloud without any of the associated overhead. Perfect for those who work in a development space, have growth goals, or simply want a secure alternative to on-site servers, CompleteCloud makes transitioning to the cloud easier than ever.