Platform as a Service: The Comprehensive Guide

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Rafael Timbó
By
Rafael Timbó
|
Chief Technology Officer
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Table of Contents

Learn what Platform as a Service is, and how to utilize this type of development and engineering in a company, or business setting.
Published on
February 16, 2023
Updated on
April 11, 2024

While the term Software as a Service (SaaS) is a familiar one, fewer people understand Platform as a Service (PaaS). PaaS falls under the umbrella of SaaS because it offers many of the elements of SaaS. However, PaaS doesn't provide an entire application stack or finished software application. Instead, it provides the development platform and tools you need to build your applications.

What Is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

Platform as a Service, also called PaaS, delivers a complete cloud platform, including infrastructure, hardware, and software, that allows users to develop and manage applications. PaaS drastically reduces the complexity and cost of building and maintaining an on-site platform. The PaaS provider hosts servers, networks, operating system software, databases, and development tools at their data centers. You receive access to their resources to build, test, deploy, and scale your applications. PaaS allows you to use a smaller, more efficient development team to create applications without worrying about maintaining all the infrastructure and development tools needed to support them.

There are several different types of PaaS currently available for software developers, including:

Private PaaS

Private PaaS providers run on your private cloud within your firewall. The emphasis of private PaaS is security, and it's most often managed on your on-premises infrastructure. Private PaaS solutions allow you to easily build, deploy, and manage applications while staying compliant with security standards and regulations.

Public PaaS

Public PaaS solutions are delivered over the public cloud. Public PaaS eliminates the need for you to maintain infrastructure while allowing access to middleware for development. With public PaaS, the vendor manages infrastructure components such as servers, operating systems, storage, and databases.

Hybrid PaaS

A hybrid PaaS is a type of cloud computing platform that allows you to build, deploy, and manage applications using a combination of on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure and resources. Hybrid PaaS provides the flexibility to use both public and private cloud environments, depending on the specific needs of the application or workload. This allows businesses to take advantage of the scalability, reliability, and cost-effectiveness of the cloud while still being able to keep certain workloads on-premises for security or compliance reasons. Hybrid PaaS can be useful for organizations that want to migrate some of their workloads to the cloud but are not yet ready to fully commit to a cloud-only approach, particularly if there are regulatory security concerns.

Open PaaS

Open PaaS is an open-source cloud-based Platform as a Service that provides a comprehensive set of tools and services for building, deploying, and managing cloud-based applications and services. Open PaaS provides a range of services and features that support the entire lifecycle of cloud-based applications, including development, testing, deployment, and management. Some of the key features of Open PaaS include support for multiple programming languages and frameworks, automated deployment and scaling, and integration with a variety of cloud-based services and tools. Open PaaS is designed to be flexible, scalable, and easy to use, making it a good choice for a wide range of applications and use cases.

Integration Platform as a Service

Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a suite of cloud-based services that standardize how applications are integrated throughout an organization. Businesses today run on multiple different applications, many of them completely isolated from others. IPaaS solutions integrate disparate apps and allow for the seamless sharing of data across applications and make it easier to automate business processes.

Mobile PaaS

Mobile PaaS allows you to easily build mobile applications by providing the infrastructure and development platform you need. Mobile PaaS lowers the technical barrier to entry for businesses that want to create mobile apps in a secure environment. Apps can be coded with simple drag-and-drop coding in MPaaS systems.

Communication PaaS

Communication PaaS (CPaaS) allows you to add real-time communication to your apps without the need to build the back-end support. Although real-time communication most often occurs in apps built for this sole purpose, CPaaS allows you to include real-time communication as a feature on your application using APIs, pre-built apps, and sample code.

Services Offered By PaaS

PaaS vendors offer a variety of services ranging from full-scale options that require little or no coding to customized options hosted on your internal infrastructure. Some of the most common services PaaS solutions provide include:

Application Design

PaaS systems provide a range of application design tools, including application programming interfaces (APIs) and integrated development environments (IDEs) for you to easily build an application. Some, such as MPaaS, even offer low-code application design options.

Application Testing

Application testing is an integral part of the development process. PaaS vendors include automated tools that allow you to test your code for security and load performance.

Application Deployment

PaaS solutions allow you to deploy straight from the platform. Deployment features eliminate the need for you to handle the technical aspects of deployment. Additionally, models that let you pay for what you use ensure that you're not making a huge upfront investment. You can start with minimal resources and expenses and scale as you go.

How Does Platform as a Service Work?

While most PaaS providers offer similar services, the specific details vary from provider to provider. Generally, the core services include:

  • Infrastructure
  • Tools for application design, testing, and deployment
  • Middleware that allows end-user applications to function on the operating system
  • Operating systems
  • Databases and database management tools
  • Business intelligence tools

PaaS is one of three main categories of cloud-based computing services. The other two are SaaS and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).

PaaS vs SaaS

While PaaS provides a cloud-based, complete, ready-to-use platform for developing applications, SaaS offers a cloud-based, complete, finished application. You can get SaaS for almost any type of application. PaaS offers less of the application stack than SaaS. With SaaS, you have a finished product ready to use. With PaaS, you have the tools to build your own product and deploy it for others to use.

PaaS vs IaaS

IaaS vendors supply the basic infrastructure you need to build networks and the virtualization layer — the hypervisor. It's up to you to create virtual machines, operating systems, support applications, and handle the associated management and configuration. PaaS provides more of the tech stack than IaaS. In the hierarchy of services, PaaS stand in the middle of IaaS and SaaS.

PaaS Benefits

PaaS lowers the barrier to entry for companies that want to develop software applications, allowing more opportunities for developers to bring creative ideas to market. The primary benefits of a PaaS include:

Faster Time to Market

Using a PaaS prevents you from having to reinvent the wheel. Since most of the underlying systems are handled for you, you only have to focus on creating your app. You don't have to wait until all the infrastructure and middleware are built before you can start working on your end product. Because you're already starting with much of the work done for you, your time to market is drastically reduced compared to starting from scratch.

Reduced Costs

PaaS providers charge you for the resources you use, so you can pay as you go. Building infrastructure and a platform from the ground up requires a tremendous investment, both in physical equipment and labor. Using a PaaS lets you bypass that initial expense and pay for what you need when you need it. With PaaS, your development team can be much smaller and more focused. You don't need to hire a team to build and maintain the underlying support systems for your primary product.

Easy Scalability

Scaling the computing resources necessary to keep up with growing customer demands can be an extreme challenge if you have to build and maintain the infrastructure and platform. A PaaS provider handles the expenses and labor associated with scaling resources. You pay for extra resources when you need them and scale back when you don't.

Increased Flexibility

The tools provided with PaaS allow you to experiment and make adjustments as you go — the heart of an agile development process. You can quickly prototype, build, test, and deploy your applications. The built-in tools let you concentrate on your core offerings, not the structure underneath.

Platform as a Service Disadvantages

Despite its numerous benefits, there are also some drawbacks to PaaS offerings. The primary disadvantages of PaaS are related to the loss of control you have when you rely on someone else providing services. Some problems you might encounter include:

Potential Service Outages

Although one advantage of using a PaaS provider is that you don't have to worry about maintaining the infrastructure and ensuring the platform is up and running. However, that does mean you have to rely on the vendor to perform those tasks. If your vendor has a service outage for whatever reason, you'll lose access to your platform and won't be able to perform your core business operations.

Security Risks

You'll also have to rely on your PaaS provider to provide the security for the middleware and infrastructure that runs your application. While you'll certainly need to handle security on your end, there's always the possibility of a security breach that originates at a lower level or within your vendor's system.

May Not Be Compatible With Other Development Platforms

Your PaaS may not integrate easily with other development platforms you're using. This can be a significant issue for larger businesses, where departments are siloed and use multiple applications, platforms, and services. Using an iPaaS can alleviate this problem, but it adds another layer of complexity.

Limited Control

With PaaS, you don't have as much control over the underlying infrastructure which can be a disadvantage if you need to customize the underlying infrastructure or have specific requirements regarding how it's configured. A PaaS may not be a good option if you're application relies on rarely used languages or frameworks that aren't supported.

Cost

Although the costs of hosting your own platform are considerable upfront, there is a point where it becomes more cost-effective. Some companies and individual freelancers will probably never reach this break-even point, but large enterprises will, particularly if they already have on-premises computing resources for other applications. If you have many complex applications, it may be cheaper to build and maintain your own platform.

PaaS Examples

Some examples of PaaS offerings include:

Cloud-based Development Environments

Cloud-based development environments allow you to build, test, and deploy applications without having to set up and maintain the necessary infrastructure.

Databases and Storage

PaaS providers often offer a range of databases and storage solutions that can be easily accessed and used by applications running on the platform, eliminating the need for you to create them.

Integration and Connectivity

PaaS providers may offer tools and services to help you integrate your applications with systems such as databases, messaging applications, and others.

Monitoring and Management

PaaS providers can give you tools and services to monitor and manage your applications and services, including performance monitoring, log management, and error tracking.

Security

Look for providers who offer security features such as encryption, access controls, and compliance with industry regulations to help protect your applications and data.

Platform as a Service Providers

Some of the top PaaS providers are:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Beanstalk

AWS Elastic Beanstalk is a fully managed service that makes it easy for you to deploy and run applications developed with Java, .NET, PHP, Node.js, Python, Ruby, Go, and Docker on popular platforms like Linux and Windows. You upload your code and the service automatically handles the deployment, scaling, and monitoring of your application. Elastic Beanstalk automatically provisions and manages the underlying resources needed to run your application.

Google App Engine

Google App Engine is another fully managed, serverless platform for developing and hosting web applications at scale. It includes a web application server, a NoSQL datastore, and support for several programming languages and development frameworks, including:

  • Python
  • Java
  • Go
  • PHP
  • Node.js
  • .NET
  • Django (Python)
  • Spring (Java)
  • Express (Node.js)
  • ASP.NET (C#)
  • Flask (Python)
  • Sinatra (Ruby)

App Engine handles all of the infrastructure, scaling, and management tasks for you, so you can focus on building your application.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform and infrastructure created by Microsoft for building, deploying, and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers. It provides a range of cloud services, including those for computing, analytics, storage, and networking. Microsoft is more flexible than AWS or Google PaaS solutions, in that you can choose and configure these services to meet your specific needs. Azure offers both Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) options.

Red Hat OpenShift

Red Hat OpenShift is based on the Kubernetes container orchestration platform and provides a way to build, deploy, and manage containerized applications. OpenShift includes a web console, command-line tools, and APIs that allow you to build, deploy, and manage your applications on top of a Kubernetes cluster. It also provides features such as automatic scaling, rolling updates, and build and deployment pipelines so you can effortlessly deploy your applications. OpenShift is designed to be easy to use and is suitable for a wide range of applications, from simple web applications to complex microservices architectures.

Oracle Cloud Platform (OCP)

Oracle Cloud Platform is another versatile option that includes SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. Their services include computing, storage, networking, data management, analytics, security, and application development. You can build, deploy, and manage applications and workloads on the cloud, using a variety of programming languages, tools, and frameworks. Oracle Cloud Platform is designed to be flexible, scalable, and secure, and can be used by organizations of all sizes, across a wide range of industries.

IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud provides cloud computing services for computing, storage, and networking. The platform is designed to be flexible and scalable, allowing businesses to use as much or as little of the services as they need, and to pay only for the resources they consume. IBM Cloud is one of the most robust providers and services for different use cases, including analytics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and more.

Hire Remote Developers with Revelo

Regardless of whether you build your own platform or use a PaaS provider, the right development team is crucial to your success. A skilled team will greatly impact the quality of your end product. A team that collaborates well also reduce the time it takes to get your product to market. Unfortunately, today's tight labor market combined with the long-running, existing tech talent shortage makes hiring qualified developers more challenging than ever.

At Revelo, we provide a pre-vetted pool of world-class tech talent based in Latin America. Our developers are fluent in English and are located in U.S.-aligned time zones. Our services don't end with sourcing talent, however. We also handle all of the administrative and HR tasks associated with hiring, onboarding, and managing the benefits of your employees.

Our customers have a dramatically shorter time to hire than companies using traditional methods. On average, it takes our customers 14 days to hire their first developer versus 65 days with traditional recruiting channels. With over 300,000 highly skilled developers, we have developers skilled in whatever tech stack you need. Reach out today to find out how we can help you build your ideal development team.

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