What is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

Platform as a Service is a cloud computing environment where a third-party service provider offers hardware and software tools for clients over the internet. PaaS allows businesses to easily deploy, run, and manage cloud applications without the complexity of setting up and maintaining their own servers and infrastructure. Thus, PaaS frees developers from having to install in-house hardware and software for development or hosting.

Many PaaS providers also offer fully managed, cloud-based data services along with platform services. These services enable developers to swiftly integrate data into their apps, as well as access and work with that data, all without having to set up and maintain their own databases.

PaaS providers also typically offer value-added tools that enable developers and teams to remain productive when deploying and running their apps.

Leading Platform as a Service (PaaS) Providers

To better understand the PaaS ecosystem, let's review some major PaaS providers.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Beanstalk

AWS Elastic Beanstalk is one of the top PaaS providers due to the fact that it has nearly unlimited cloud capabilities. AWS Elastic Beanstalk can be used to deploy and run web applications built using various languages, such as  Java, .Net, PHP, Ruby, NodeJS, and Python. You just have to upload your code using your preferred tools, and AWS Elastic Beanstalk will handle everything else, including deployment, provisioning, load balancing, and auto-scaling.

Oracle Cloud Platform  (OCP)

Oracle Cloud Platform has been a key player in the IT field even before the arrival of cloud computing. As a result, it is also a key player in the PaaS market. OCP merges both open source and Oracle proprietary technologies. You can develop apps, deploy, run, manage builds, and oversee operations with ease using OCP. OCP also leverages machine learning to offer essential self-repairing capabilities.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is not only a PaaS provider, but also offers software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) components together. PaaS features offered by Azure include all standard features such as infrastructure, servers, storage, networking, middleware, runtime environments, security solutions, OS, databases, analytics, and development tools.

Google App Engine

Google App Engine is Google's PaaS service. It’s integrated with Google Cloud Platform, which uses the same infrastructure as the Google search engine.  

Similar to other PaaS providers, Google App Engine provides a fully managed cloud platform to develop, deploy, and manage your applications. Therefore, organizations don't need to bother with infrastructure provisioning or configuration. They can also let Google App Engine handle scaling.

What factors should you consider before switching to PaaS?

A CTO must assess various aspects of their business before making the decision to switch to PasS. Some of the main concerns are listed below.

Costs

In terms of costs, you need to determine the strategic implication of adopting PaaS. Your return on investment (ROI) should justify the transition. Your costs are not always operational in nature, but also include resources, deployment, and developing the application. For small businesses planning to scale, it’s vital to understand the business case and the effective ROI for a switch to PaaS.

Security

Security is one of the major concerns that you should investigate when developing a cloud-dependent application or moving their business to PaaS. Security is multifaceted; hence, you will have to handle identity access management, encryption, compliance, roles, policies, and management. It's best to determine both your current security requirements and also create a high-level list of likely issues that might arise in the future.

Governance

Preparing a better governance plan will help you remain consistent with your development policies. Your governance strategy defines what can be done, who can do what, and how different tasks will be managed.

Deployment and Testing

Deciding to leverage a PaaS platform is usually a technical consideration first and foremost. Therefore, you need to ensure that automated deployment and testing will add value to your business. DevOps is a great fit for cloud computing because of its ability to leverage the technology effectively.

Testing each component, a set, or the entire solution using an automated approach is possible using the cloud, and many cloud platforms are built to support DevOps best practices.

Management and Monitoring

You need to prepare a comprehensive plan to manage and monitor your cloud operations. From a management perspective, you need to look into performance, configurations, and security. Monitoring can be real-time and event-driven for a more reliable, hands-off approach.

Advantages of switching to PaaS

How can PaaS give your engineering team an edge? Let's take a look.

Rapid Development and Deployment

PaaS enables developers to build apps more quickly than if they had to build and configure their own platforms and infrastructure. PaaS gives developers a complete software development environment which consists of sample code and pre-built components.

Reduced Costs

PaaS eliminates the need to develop applications from scratch and thereby reduces the costs normally associated with development. PaaS is a reliable option for companies who are trying to reduce their current operational costs, develop an application for the first time, or make the most of limited resources.

Dynamic Scalability

Like most other cloud services, PaaS offers dynamic scaling. When you need a more robust infrastructure, your provider will automatically supply it and will scale back when the demand is low. You only have to pay for what you use, which will save you money overall, while ensuring that your clients are not facing slow, lagging connections due to a lack of network capabilities.

Stay Up-to-Date

PaaS experts keep on incorporating and testing component updates constantly and only deploy them to production when they meet critical conditions. With PaaS, you will get a tech stack that keeps you updated with time and ensures that your application is running on the latest technology.

Increased Security

PasS providers heavily invest in security technology and expertise. They offer continuous security updates for individual stack components. This ensures the safety of user data so that developers can develop apps more confidently with PaaS.

Drawbacks of switching to PaaS

Adopting PaaS is not without a few risks. Here are the primary challenges to consider.

Vendor Lock-In

Sometimes it can be difficult to switch PaaS providers once your application is built because it is developed using a particular platform and set of tools. Every vendor may not support the same programming languages, libraries, APIs, operating systems, or architecture that was used to develop and run your application.

Even if it is possible to switch PaaS providers, the process will be hard, time-consuming, and expensive. Changing providers may even require you to rebuild or modify the application to fit the new platform.

Compatibility with Existing Infrastructure

All the parts of your company's existing infrastructure may not be built for the cloud. If some components cannot be cloud-enabled successfully, you might have to switch various apps and programs to fully integrate, or you may need to remove some of these things from the cloud and within your existing infrastructure.

Security Risks

In the PaaS architecture, most of the application's data, along with its code, are stored by the external provider. In some cases, the vendor may store the database through a third party.

In such a condition, it may be difficult to fully evaluate the security measures of a PaaS provider. Nevertheless, you should do your best to understand your provider's security and compliance protocols before switching to a PaaS platform.

Thinking through a PaaS transition

In order to make a transition to a PaaS solution, first, you need to determine your use case. Are you transitioning to leverage a database, DevOps, security, or governance? You need to do an in-depth future state assessment before you can define the new architecture, provision resources, and migrate to the platform.

Consider a case where you want to leverage the cloud for improved DevOps infrastructure. Your plans may include automating development, production, and testing operations using an Agile approach. To achieve this, you need to choose the tools that you plan to use. Your basic requirements might include continuous coding, continuous integration, and continuous testing. Once you've determined which tools and frameworks you intend to use, you can narrow down your search for a PaaS provider to only those platforms that support your desired use case.

Key factors to consider when switching to PaaS

Moving to a PaaS service is not just an IT decision. It's a business decision, and adopting new technology within the organization is always tricky. There are some major factors that might impact your migration to PaaS.

You have to assess the readiness of your teams to support the new cloud strategy. The roles of cloud architects, developers, and engineers, and the skills they require, are in demand and rapidly evolving. Knowledge of a single platform or any narrowly defined category within the cloud is only a fragment of the skills and experience required.

Teams need to have a deep knowledge of your existing infrastructure, the complex pricing models across cloud providers, and the technical expertise necessary to overcome any challenges that might hold up the process. They need to understand how resources are consumed, how costs are incurred, and how to manage fragmented resources to prevent overprovisioning and underutilization.

On the operations side, teams will need to determine which workloads and applications can be migrated as they are, which should be re-architected, and when to replace or retire expensive features or applications.

You will also need to consider if your company's IT team is willing or motivated to make the switch. Employees are reluctant to change by nature. When you have employees who have been doing certain operational processes in a particular way for a long time, they may not be keen to accept changes. You'll need to hear these employees' concerns and persuade them that a PaaS migration will benefit them over the long run.

How to justify transitioning to PaaS

Switching to PaaS is beneficial and sometimes even necessary in some situations. For example, PaaS can be used to streamline workflows when multiple developers are working on the same project. PaaS is especially beneficial when creating custom applications, as it enables developers to focus on the functionalities that make the application unique.

Another major reason for an organization to switch to PaaS is to simplify and reduce organizational expenses. Establishing a physical data center within the organization is a costly and time-consuming affair. It will involve a range of physical resources and skilled technician recruitment. But when you opt for PaaS, the only cost will be for that service. You can also unsubscribe at any time when you feel the service is not needed anymore.

What types of organizations should switch to PaaS?

For obvious reasons, PaaS platforms are mostly used by software development companies. They offer numerous benefits to developers, including a perfect environment for developing, testing, and managing applications. In most cases, PaaS is the better choice for software development companies.

In addition to development companies, creative agencies, consultancies, and internal IT teams can leverage PaaS in order to build feature-rich apps and services efficiently, accelerating the time-to-market.

Moreover, PaaS is a good option for startups and other small and growing businesses for two reasons. The first one is that it reduces the cost. The second is that it eliminates risks associated with owning software licenses and maintaining infrastructure.

Best practices for adopting PaaS

If you decide that the benefits that PaaS will add to your organization outweigh its potential drawbacks, there are ways to switch over and use PaaS in a way that maximizes its benefits and gives you the best experience.

Ensuring that you are paired with the right PaaS provider is the essential step for ongoing success with this approach. You should choose a provider that is a good fit for your overall business requirements, and only after conducting a thorough assessment of those requirements.

Before the transition, you should consider ensuring that your company will stay compliant with all relevant regulations, have the right security measures in place, and have redundancy and backup processes prepared in case something goes wrong. You should take every opportunity to tailor your PaaS system to exactly what you need.

This can be done by analyzing your data, existing resources, business goals, and current needs, and by working with your provider to find the right environment for your company. If you are worried about executing the migration to PaaS, work with a provider that offers setup and full migration. Whether you completely hand over this aspect of the system to your PaaS provider or add a member of the provider's integration team to own IT team temporarily to complete the process together, having an expert on board is a great way to migrate your existing systems without running into problems.

Moreover, you need to make sure that your provider is always ready and willing to provide support at any stage, from the initial implementation and deployment, through monitoring operations and performing upgrades and security patches.

Crowdbotics offers built-in PaaS capability

Apart from switching to a PaaS platform mentioned above, you can also use Crowdbotics, which functions as a PaaS platform with built-in, fully customizable DevOps, deployment, and hosting. With the Crowdbotics App Builder, you can build full-code software applications extremely fast without any coding skills. Crowdbotics makes this possible by offering hundreds of widely used code packages and app templates that users can snap into their custom web or mobile app with a single click.

Furthermore, Crowdbotics offers a complete DevOps pipeline for every application you create, including database, hosting, security, staging, and production instances. This automated infrastructure is available both to users of the Crowdbotics App Builder and to our Managed App Development clients, so if you are interested in building a custom app with a modern cloud hosting solution, please get in touch.

The cloud has drastically changed the way software applications are developed and deployed. Businesses are also in search of solutions that help speed up their processes and minimize costs. In most cases, leveraging a PaaS approach adds the necessary flexibility and efficiency that is essential for driving businesses towards growth.