Platform as a Service: A Beginner’s Guide
Technology Web Development

Platform as a Service: A Beginner’s Guide

By Mainak Biswas June 24, 2015 - 1,212 views

Platform as a service is the most difficult and confusing to characterize as it is often mistaken with Infrastructure as a service or other cloud computing services. The key factor that defines PaaS is the fact that it allows developers to build and deploy web applications on a hosted Infrastructure. PaaS has an elastic quality that helps in expanding the cloud to accommodate infinite data.

PaaS has its own unique set of characteristics that makes your experience of using Platform as a Service more enjoyable one and it can save your time and cost. With increasing costs and unavailability of resources, models such as the PaaS are growing in their stature & importance. It is not only the small and medium sized companies which use PaaS but also the larger ones. There are both technical and economical reasons to adopt PaaS as a preferred cloud computing model. In this article, let us take a look at what PaaS is and how it is used.

PaaS for developers

A common misconception that prevails is that cloud computing is only for network administrators and this forces us to lose out on many benefits & solutions to tackle certain problems. In a typical setup without PaaS, the tasks involved in setting up a server are acquiring and deploying server, installing operating system, configuring operating system, testing & running it to check whether it works and a hundred more steps. Setting up a new server and hosting an environment while copying the existing data can be really painstaking but if you have PaaS, you would have something called a Virtual Machine (VM) through which you can pass the information to the server like in a USB Flash Drive. This reduces the need for IT infrastructural investment and encourages developers to focus on what they need to really be doing – developing.

Some of the advantages of PaaS are as follows:

1. Rapid testing and deploying

PaaS provides you an opportunity to the development teams to try different configurations, multiple machines and different locations to assess performance by running stress tests and also check compatibility & response in novel ways that would be next to impossible in a local environment. When the testing becomes quick, deploying also becomes quicker. It saves the developers a lot of time and reduces cost. Most importantly, rapid testing and deploying helps you to build a better business by ensuring that your clients and customers are never left waiting for updates, finished products & other such things according to the way your business might use PaaS.

2. Portability

Like we mentioned earlier, PaaS has the option of Virtual Machine or VM, which helps in carrying the existing data on a new server without any hassle. The platform needs to be agnostic to the underlying infrastructure and allow companies to move the application from one IaaS to another. Systems that don’t use PaaS have to spend days to reincorporate data and this uses up a lot of employees’ time. PaaS avoids the unnecessary chaos by its feature of portability. This helps to enhance flexibility within an organization and increase productivity.

3. Dynamic Allocation

In today’s competitive market, when there are millions of options to choose from,  IT teams need to be flexible enough  to quickly test or put a new feature of an application or a new service in the market. It needs to be ensured that before launching it on a large scale, it needs to be tested on a small section of clients. Although seemingly difficult, it has become much easier with PaaS and cloud computing. PaaS, when hosted on IaaS, gives you the option of multiple accesses again, reducing time drastically. This helps in encouraging the dynamic cloud process, which is also slated to be the future of cloud computing.

4. API    

Application Program Interface or API plays a huge role in making PaaS perform tasks such as user authentication and storing & retrieving files and it can also sometimes help in making calls directly to a database; the platform needs to have a well-documented API. This will contribute in making your business have the flexibility of creating and customizing a software application to interface with the platform, which meets the specific requirements of the company.

5. Availability and scalability

The biggest concern about any software or a server is its availability and whether it will be adaptable to your company’s requirements. When you choose a platform, it needs to be easily accessible and available anywhere at any time. If you choose something that isn’t available or is difficult to access, it can cause a fatal damage to your company’s success as you will have to invest a lot of time and energy to just install it.

Another important aspect is scalability of any service. PaaS gives you the power to scale the improvements or the problems that need to be solved accurately. The platform needs to be smart enough to take the full utility value of the elastic capacity of an underlying infrastructure. It needs to be able to handle all the requirements of an application. If you want your PaaS model to be successful, make sure that you choose a platform that will help your company’s overall outcome.

6. Boosts Internal Entrepreneurship

Due to cloud computing, companies no longer need to put in efforts in maintaining and choosing systems. They can focus on the business aspects of the companies, which is the core constituent of any entrepreneurship. PaaS quickens the development and deployment on an online infrastructure possible. This, in turn, helps to empower visionaries and boosts internal entrepreneurship. All a company has to do is to set aside some budget for PaaS and encourage the IT team to utilize the PaaS to come up with innovative ideas and strategies. The best part is they don’t have to worry about the maintenance and any kind of fixed tariff.

7. Security

When we talk about cloud computing of any kind, the biggest concern that arises is about the security of the data stored in it. Therefore, when you choose PaaS, ensure that it can effectively combat threats regarding security and privacy of data. This can be done by addressing issues of cross-site scripting, denial of service, SQL injection and make the data to be ingrained into the application development. The platform needs to be inclusive and provide the ability to include, embed and integrate other applications built on the same platform or others. The best PaaS is one that can support sign-on capabilities and lets you to integrate it with your in-house applications or other cloud applications.

Disadvantages of PaaS

Of course, along with the many advantages of PaaS, there are certain disadvantages too. Therefore, choose wisely by understanding the disadvantages to overcome any barriers. Some of the disadvantages are:

1. Data Security

This seems like a never-ending concern as companies are still skeptical about using a third party source to store their data. Companies are hesitant to host their applications on a third source, irrespective of the security assurance. When it comes to Government institutes, a lot of energy is wasted on convincing them about privacy and data retention.

2. Limited Flexibility

Unlike IaaS, PaaS cannot easily create or delete multiple Virtual Machines. This causes the companies to put in efforts into designing, creating and testing PaaS before launching it on a large scale. The limited flexibility causes a slight problem in accepting PaaS completely.

3. Unavailability of Vendors

As there is an increase in demand for PaaS and the number of vendors are limited, the vendors are in a lock-in period with some companies and the others are left with very limited choice for choosing a PaaS vendor. If the vendor-lock in issue is sorted, there will be an astounding increase in PaaS usership.

Looking forward

Platform as a Service, like any other software, has some amazing features and few glitches. While installing PaaS for your company, make sure you choose the right platform and the right vendor. If you have queries about security, clarify it with your vendor before installing so that you don’t regret your decision later. Also don’t get confused between IaaS and PaaS because each of them has its own unique characteristics. Once you install PaaS, try and make it adaptable to your company’s requirements to guarantee success.

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