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Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a type of cloud computing service that provides developers with a ready-to-use environment and software development kits for building and deploying applications.

There are three primary types of PaaS: public PaaS, private PaaS, and hybrid PaaS. Some other well-known variations include Mobile PaaS (MPaaS) and Open PaaS.

Say you are a developer wanting to build applications.

You have all the ideas about how you want them to look and function.

You have two choices: build it from scratch or use PaaS, a service that provides infrastructure and a toolkit for application building. 

Not only does the latter choice sound more convenient, but it is more cost-effective and time-efficient, and the market is predicted to reach $170 billion by 2024.

This article will explore PaaS, its meaning, types, examples,  pros & cons, and things to consider before using it.

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What Is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

PaaS is a cloud-based service that lets developers build and run applications in the cloud. It provides cloud infrastructure (such as servers, storage, and networking), middleware (such as frameworks and libraries), and user interfaces (such as GUI, CLI, and API interfaces).

With PaaS, developers can focus on writing code, designing user interfaces, and adding features without worrying about server set-up or database management.

PaaS solution is a part of cloud computing services that includes Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

💡 Tip: Learn more about the differences between each cloud computing service in our article about PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS 

How Does PaaS Work?

Now that we know what PaaS is let's discuss how it works. 

1. Development of the App

In this process, developers sign up for a PaaS service and select the necessary tools (such as computing power, storage, and development tools). They then access the provider’s hosted infrastructure and software tools to develop their application. 

💡 Tip: Application refers to a software package with modules that deliver functionality to the end users. For example, a web app or a data analysis tool like a PDF scanner, spreadsheet, photo editing tool, or file conversion tool.

2. Deployment of the App

Once the application is built, developers deploy it on the PaaS platform, meaning they use the PaaS service provider’s resources to run and manage their application.

Simply put, the cloud provider manages the underlying infrastructure that runs the application.

3. Scaling and Adapting

As the application gains more users, it requires more resources to handle increased traffic. Most PaaS providers have some type of built-in autoscaling, which means it automatically adjusts the resources to match demand, whether adding resources when there is more demand (scales out) or removing them to save cost when there is less demand (scales in). 

This can also be done through a schedule that matches the user’s industry, such as setting the applications to scale out during peak hours and scale in during nights and weekends.

4. Maintenance and Monitoring

Most PaaS provides automation and diagnostic features that simplify maintenance and monitoring tasks. 

This includes handling regular backups, patches, and updates, as well as data collection on usage and performance, sometimes trackable through dashboards, alerts, or reports. 

Types of PaaS

There are three primary types of PaaS: public PaaS, private PaaS, and hybrid PaaS. However, numerous variations are available in the market. 

Let’s look into the top five most well-known.

Public PaaS

Public PaaS is a PaaS that runs on a public cloud infrastructure where multiple users can connect to its software while the cloud is managed by the provider. 

Public PaaS is ideal for small and medium businesses as it is more cost-effective than private ones, whereas large businesses may be skeptical of public PaaS due to concerns about public cloud security and the need to comply with its numerous regulations.

Private PaaS

Private PaaS operates within a private cloud, which means it is dedicated to one user and either managed by the users themselves or by a third-party service provider. 

It typically locates in a data center on the user's premises thus the setup ensures heightened security and privacy for running the applications.

Private PaaS users also enjoy more control over the infrastructure in comparison to public PaaS. 

Hybrid PaaS

Hybrid PaaS is a flexible distributed computing environment that integrates public and private clouds. This means users can run applications on both public and private clouds depending on their needs.

For instance, users can run a front-end web server on a public cloud to take advantage of its scalability, while keeping the back-end database on a private cloud for security.  

Cloud migration is also possible, such as migrating workload from a private cloud to a public one to increase capacity.

Expert Insight

With hybrid PaaS, you can leverage your on-premises and cloud resources. This means you can provision resources that handle sensitive data on-premises while utilizing the cloud for other resources.

Mobile PaaS

Mobile platform as a service or MPaaS is a type of PaaS designed specifically for mobile/web/tablet app development in the cloud. 

MPaaS can work with public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises storage. 

Open PaaS

Open PaaS is open-source cloud software that runs on any device and allows anyone to access, modify and distribute the code. 

This type of PaaS does not include hosting.

Examples of PaaS Tools

AWS Elastic Beanstalk

AWS Elastic Beanstalk, offered by Amazon, is a PaaS provider that simplifies deploying applications.

You can use the service just by uploading the code, AWS Elastic Beanstalk then handles the rest, from infrastructure setup, workload configuration, and automatic scaling, to health monitoring. 

You can also customize your application environment, and you only pay for the resources you use.

Expert Insight

All you need to do is provide your application code, and Beanstalk deploys it using the necessary computing resources. We don’t need to apply patches or security updates since this PaaS takes care of it all.

Microsoft Azure App Service

Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing platform with a secure hosting service for building, deploying and scalings web apps, and APIs. 

The system handles infrastructure, autoscaling, CI/CD, zero-downtime deployment and security. It also supports virtual networks and isolated environments.

You are free to enjoy its global availability and flexible pricing based on resource usage. 

Red Hat Openshift Dedicated 

Red Hat OpenShift Dedicated is a PaaS solution that runs on Amazon Web Service and Google Cloud. At its core, it simplifies building and managing applications at scale. 

Benefits include faster time to value, high availability, customized authentication, flexibility across hybrid cloud environments, monitoring system, various instance types, and more.

Pricing depends on factors like node size and configuration. 

Cloud Foundry

Cloud Foundry is a platform for building cloud-native applications. It simplifies app delivery with a single command and supports multiple frameworks, with resources for developer training and tutorials.

The platform emphasizes stability and sustainability, driven by a helpful community.

Advantages and Disadvantages of PaaS

PaaS offers many benefits, but it comes with some challenges. Let’s explore the pros and cons. 

Advantages of PaaS

Advantage of PaaS Description
Faster Time to Market PaaS enables faster app development thus having an earlier product launch
Increased Efficiency  PaaS lets businesses quickly adapt to the ever-changing market and trends
Improved Scalability PaaS providers can scale to handle increased traffic and demand
Reduced infrastructure Costs PaaS providers handle the underlying infrastructure

Faster Time to Market

PaaS lets you start developing immediately without waiting for hardware and software installation. 

This instant access to the platform and tools saves you time, allowing for early product development and launch.

🔎 Insight: Intel reports that PaaS can reduce time to market from weeks to less than a day compared to dedicated computed.

Increased Efficiency 

Whenever there is a change in the market, with PaaS, you can affordably experiment with new tools without big investments or infrastructure setup.

PaaS can also improve IT efficiency by speeding provisioning, eliminating routine tasks, and increasing automation, allowing IT to be more responsive to other business opportunities.

Improved Scalability

One of the challenges of software deployment is capacity. However, with cloud services, you can utilize autoscaling and adjust computing power as needed, often under the “pay what you use” model.   

Reduced Infrastructure Costs

PaaS reduces hardware costs, software licensing fees, personnel costs, and IT maintenance expenses. This means the time and talent effort needed to build and maintain infrastructure can be put into product development instead. 

🔎 Insight: Implementing cloud computing can save up to 20% annually on infrastructure costs

Disadvantages of PaaS

Disadvantage of PaaS Description
Security Concerns Potential for data breach and unauthorized access
Integration Challenges Some PaaS providers may not offer the same level of integration with existing systems
Dependency on Providers Reliability concerns such as frequent downtimes, power outages, loss of confidential data, etc.

Security Concerns

Using a PaaS service means entrusting your data and applications to third-party providers. Their security measures determine the safety of your data. 

While most providers have strong security, some PaaS risks that are not as prevalent in in-house platforms do exist. For example, poor access controls and limited monitoring across different platforms.

So, it’s best to evaluate the provider's security practices, including compliance, data encryption, and access control.

Additionally, if the provider allows, it’s recommended to conduct your own regular penetration tests on the applications deployed on the cloud.

Integration Challenges

PaaS provides integration but it does not mean all PaaS can integrate with any tools without limitation. 

Assess the integration capabilities of the PaaS service to ensure it meets your needs. This includes checking their support for common integration protocols, and compatibility with popular third-party systems.

Dependency on Providers

When using PaaS service, you rely on the providers for your application's availability and performance. Any downtime or performance problems on their end can impact your applications, leading to revenue loss, reduced productivity, and harm to your reputation. 

To avoid this, evaluate the PaaS provider's reliability, performance track record, and ability to promptly address issues.

Expert Insight

When you lack control over the underlying resources, managing stack upgrades becomes a challenge. For instance, if the application runtime version gets updated to one that is incompatible with your application, it can lead to issues.

5 Things to Consider Before Choosing a PaaS

Now we know how great PaaS can be, it is time to look at what to consider before choosing which PaaS for your company.

Consider these 5 things before choosing a PaaS:

1. Vendor Lock-in 

Vendor lock-in means that it is difficult or costly to switch from one provider to another, either because of technical or contractual limitations. 

Switching PaaS vendors can be challenging because of different underlying technology designs, different APIs, protocols or programming languages. 

Our Advice: Look for a provider that follows open standards and APIs and lets you export your data. Additionally, review their terms and conditions for any hidden fees or penalties for switching or terminating contracts.

2. Scalability

PaaS should be able to handle the growth of your application, both in terms of functionality and performance. You want a PaaS provider that can scale up or down your resources automatically or on demand. 

Our Advice: Look for a flexible pricing plan and a robust infrastructure that can support your application at any scale.

3. Performance and Reliability

Can the platform deliver consistent and high-quality service regardless of where they are located or what device they are using? That is another important question.

Our Advice: Choose a provider with a strong performance record, high uptime, transparent SLAs, and real-time monitoring tools.

4. Application Requirements 

Before adopting PaaS environments, evaluate application requirements carefully. 

This includes researching whether existing applications can be migrated to the cloud and whether they need to be managed flexibly across different PaaS models (public, private, or hybrid).

Our Advice: Look for PaaS services that meet your functional and technical requirements.

5. Vendor Reputation

It’s an undeniable truth that reputation is a decision-making factor. The more reputable it is in the market, the higher chance that the service is reliable and that there is a helpful community to seek help from when you face issues.

Our Advice: Look for real customers’ reviews and an existing community. 

Final Thoughts

With PaaS, the development team can use pre-built infrastructures instead of building their own from scratch. This allows them to allocate their time and energy towards innovation, and to be more responsive to customer needs and market trends.

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FAQs

What is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

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PaaS is a type of cloud computing service model that provides a platform and development tools (hardware, software, and infrastructure) for developers to develop and deploy applications. 

What are examples of PaaS?

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How is PaaS used?

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What are the benefits of PaaS?

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What to consider before deciding which PaaS to use?

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