Is PaaS the Right Cloud Service Model for Your Business?

There are different cloud service models employed by providers and customers, with each designed to suit different needs. If you are not sure what cloud model to use, we have a comprehensive guide you can use as a reference, involving the likes of the more common SaaS, IaaS and PaaS. For this post, however, the focus will be on PaaS or Platform-as-a-Service offerings, which are popular among small to mid-size enterprises.

IaaS, SaaS, PaaS

PaaS Overview

PaaS is a cloud computing service model wherein customers are granted the abilities of developing, running, and managing web applications without having to worry about the complexities of infrastructure building and maintenance. It can be provisioned in two forms: as a public cloud service and as software installed in private data centers.

As a public cloud service, the cloud provider supplies the networks, storage, and servers while allowing the customer to take control over software deployment and configuration. As a software in private data centers, it is managed by internal (the customer’s) IT departments.

Journey to PaaS - infographic by IBM

Source: IBM

PaaS was first introduced by AWS and Salfesforce, and the original intention was to help developers by simplifying the coding process. PaaS involves an environment where developers and companies create, host, and deploy applications with fewer hassles, as the PaaS provider already takes care of the infrastructure, runtime, operating system, virtualization, middleware, storage, servers, and networking.

In some cases, PaaS providers may also offer facilities for application testing and deployment, team collaboration, web service and database integration, state management, application versioning and instrumentation, and developer community integration.

Cloud computing layers

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cloud_computing_layers.png

Advantages

The main advantage in using PaaS is its conduciveness for advanced and larger scale levels of programming, since it reduces process complexities. It can make the overall application development process more efficient.

PaaS hastens application testing and deployment since it is conveniently possible for development teams to try different configurations, multiple machines, and various locations for stress, performance, and compatibility testing. Additionally, PaaS can make it easier to maintain and enhance applications. PaaS is an advantageous option in scenarios involving multiple developers who are not geographically located near each other and are collaboratively working on one project.

Disadvantages

Some years back, many PaaS offerings somehow had the issue of forcing users to be locked in to a specific platform. However, most PaaS offerings now are already lock-in free. Services being offered by Amazon and Google, for example, are notably free of any lock-in drawbacks.

In terms of data security, a common concern is that businesses are still hestitant in trusting the security of applications hosted under a PaaS model. Likewise, the flexibility of PaaS does not compare to that of IaaS. Case in point: it’s not that easy for PaaS customers to create and erase multiple virtual machines. Moreover, customers may encounter integration problems with in-house systems and applications.

Suitable PaaS Usage

With the advantages and disadvantages laid out, deducing the suitable or ideal users of PaaS should now be clearer. Generally, PaaS is a great cloud service model for medium-size enterprises that require cloud computing but are not willing or capable of handling the hassles of resource allocation issues. However, it can also effectively serve the needs of individual or small developer groups that collaborate on a single project, especially for those that use a variety of languages and frameworks.

Most users of PaaS cloud models tend to be agencies or independent software developers involved in the building and deployment of public-facing web and mobile applications. However, the ideal use case scenario of PaaS goes beyond application deployment.

An innovative service model that involves PaaS is load balancing, either for cloud-based, hosted or on-premises servers. While such technologies are traditionally addressed through an on-premises appliance or a simple DNS-based approach, an alternative approach to load balancing, failover and disaster recovery is the cloud-based approach. PaaS-based load balancing offers a robust and scalable way to distribute load across multiple servers, ensuring high availability and preventing overloads, without the need to install an expensive appliance.

Why PaaS May Not Be Suitable for You

Fortunately, at present, there aren’t that many reasons why you may not want to use PaaS for your business. Customer captivity or the drawback of being bound by a vendor lock-in period is no longer a major problem, although it can still be an inconvenience for some businesses.

The more considerable factors that may prevent you from using PaaS are issues on flexibility and integration. If your business needs the convenience of being able to easily create and delete several virtual machines, PaaS is not the right option for you. If your company already has legacy systems and applications, you may encounter some integration challenges.

IBM SmartCloud diagram

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SmartCloud_diagram.jpg

To emphasize, before you consider PaaS or any other cloud computing model, it is important to know your setup and needs and to carefully examine the options to determine the most suitable model. If in doubt, you can seek the guidance of those who have the expertise and experience in working with these technologies, to ensure the most efficient, robust and cost-effective approach to cloud computing.

About the Author: Daan is a Cloud Computing, Web Security Expert and Blogger for Hire. His current interests include enterprise automation, cloud-based security and solutions. Follow him on Twitter and visit his website. 

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