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What Is PaaS?
Cloud computing consists of three basic service models, or layers: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).
PaaS is a relatively new cloud computing model for developing and running applications over the internet — as a service. Using PaaS eliminates the complexity and expenses of buying, configuring, and maintaining all the hardware and software components needed for application development and rapid deployment. All services required for the application development process are integrated in PaaS plans.
PaaS service providers support and manage all computing and software components of the platform, so users can immediately log in and start using the platform — usually through a web browser. Most of the available PaaS platforms are software development oriented and they offer many advantages over traditional hosting.
What Are the Advantages of PaaS?
The biggest advantage of the PaaS service model is that it eliminates the need for dedicated in-house hardware and software for application development. All of these resources are virtualized and instantly available on PaaS solutions. Many companies already have their own IT departments, data centers and staff, but PaaS can be an attractive option for them as well. Using PaaS solutions can reduce maintenance costs and the work needed to keep the infrastructure running.
Building a traditional enterprise IT infrastructure requires a lot of investment in redundancy to increase service availability time. PaaS relies on third-party infrastructure: data centers and hardware resources of the cloud provider. This way PaaS can guarantee service availability and redundancy.
PaaS services also make you independent in choosing your location, or the location of your developers. Since PaaS services are usually accessed through a web browser, all you need is internet connectivity. PaaS also allows remote teams of developers to easily collaborate on projects from multiple locations and time zones.
PaaS service providers charge a flat monthly fee or a per-use fee for access to the platform. This makes PaaS attractive to start-up companies, as it minimizes investments in their own IT infrastructure.
Application development in PaaS is often faster, as there is no time spent on troubleshooting and configuring the underlying IT infrastructure. It is also important to note that many PaaS service providers offer free access to individual developers, with certain limitations. They want to get them hooked on their platform and keep them on board when they start creating more elaborate projects.
PaaS Is Not for Everyone
With all the advantages of PaaS, there are still certain scenarios when using PaaS is not the best option. PaaS is mostly oriented towards web application development, it is not very popular with desktop application development.
If your development project includes legacy code or some relatively old coding approaches, or needs direct control of hardware components, it could be problematic with PaaS. Do not use PaaS if the performance of your application requires customization of the underlying hardware or software.
PaaS Pros and Cons
- PaaS allows for higher-level programming with reduced complexity
- Effective and quick application development
- Team collaboration from remote locations
- Location independent
- PaaS applications inherit the most important cloud characteristic, such as scalability, high-availability, multi-tenancy
- Automatic updates of platform software components
- Decreased costs of development, less hardware
- No worries about software and hardware compatibility, the PaaS provider takes care of that
- If an PaaS provider experiences downtime, your will be affected and you won't be able to resolve the issue on your own
- The threat of "vendor lock-in" can be an issue in PaaS environments
- If a PaaS service provider stops supporting a specific programming language, users may have to change their programming language, or the provider itself
- PaaS can be prohibitively expensive for independent developers and startups
Points to Remember
PaaS solutions with integrated development team collaboration tools can be very useful in situations where multiple developers will be working on a development project. PaaS is all about rapid web application development, allowing multiple developers to focus on code rather than hosting-related software and hardware issues.
When looking into PaaS solutions, be sure to select the one that best fits your needs and experience, with support for your preferred programming language, database engines and add-ons. Also check for security options and availability with the PaaS providers before making your choice.
Many PaaS providers offer free trials of their platforms, all in an effort to get more developers on board. Prior to making a purchase, set aside some time to try them out and check whether or not PaaS works for you.
If PaaS service providers do not have what you are looking for, another option is to use an IaaS service and set up you development environment manually in the IaaS service. Of course, in the IaaS model, the user maintains the operating system and all the software installed on the virtual infrastructure, while in PaaS you get a ready-to-go development environment.
It is also advisable to keep a separate backup of your work, regardless of automatic backups in PaaS. This is always a good practice, especially if you are collaborating with a team of remote developers.