Getting started with platform as a service architecture
When building an application, developers will have to choose how to deploy the end product. An application needs hosting infrastructure for individuals to be able to access it. Platform as a service architecture provides a developer with everything they need to be able to host and deploy their app to the masses.
This rental model is growing in popularity thanks to the rising demand for web and mobile applications. This model also helps to simplify the development process, ensuring a smooth and agile environment that enables small businesses to operate with the resources of much larger ones. In this guide, we will explore how platform as a service works and how you can put it to work in your own business.
What is platform as a service (PaaS)?
The platform as a service model is often referred to as PaaS. This is a service whereby developers can rent the space they need to build and deploy an application. Rather than building and owning the infrastructure needed to make this happen, developers can now take an agile approach and only pay for the resources they need.
This service helps to simplify app development while also ensuring that resources are used in the most efficient way possible. PaaS also helps to ensure developers have access to the tools they need without paying over the odds. This system works to level the playing field for developers and makes it possible for anyone to create and deploy their own app without a lot of investment.
What are the models of cloud computing?
There are three main types of cloud computing models, and these are infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). The overarching service is IaaS, which includes cloud-computing infrastructure such as servers and storage.
A PaaS provider might own the infrastructure, or they might rent this from an IaaS provider. And SaaS is the top layer in the cloud computing model. This refers to a single tool that an end-user might need. If SaaS is like renting a car, then PaaS is like renting the tools you need to build your own. And IaaS would be like renting the space you need to build and store your car.
How does PaaS compare to internal hosting?
The biggest benefit of PaaS hosting is that it can be accessed from anywhere. With many app development teams often operating in a distributed model, being able to access and work on the app from anywhere with an internet connection offers a distinct advantage.
The alternative would be to pay for your own server infrastructure, which would have significant costs attached. The developer would then be responsible for maintenance, updates and upkeep, which will also increase costs. And finally, setting up internal hosting would also place limits on the number of people who can access your application. These self-imposed limits may stand in the way of growth and expansion further down the line.
With PaaS hosting, there are no limits and the developer can take an agile approach to their app deployment. This means the same hosting package can take them from development and development to growth and scaling without needing to upgrade any internal architecture. This also offers significant savings over internal hosting.
What are some examples of PaaS?
There are a few companies offering PaaS hosting services, including some very well known ones. These include:
- AWS Elastic Beanstalk
- Windows Azure
- Google App Engine
- Apache Stratos
These services offer similar pricing models to SaaS, only instead of offering a single software package for a rental fee, PaaS provides the tools needed to create software and apps.
What is the structure of PaaS architecture?
The services and tools offered by vendors may differ, but in general, you can expect that your PaaS environment will include the following offerings:
- Development tools
- Operating systems
- Database management
- Hosting infrastructure
To help you to understand what exactly you are getting with the PaaS model, let’s look at each of these offerings in more detail.
Since the entire purpose of PaaS hosting is to help developers to create and deploy apps, you can expect to find a suite of tools to help make this happen. This could include source code editors, debugging tools, compilers and everything else you could need to bring your app to life. The specific tools and frameworks available will differ by each provider, but you should expect to find everything you need to help you build your app.
Middleware is software that sits between the user-facing system and the machine’s operating system. PaaS will typically include middleware to help avoid the need for each developer to build it from scratch. An example of middleware would be the software required to allow computer hardware to access input from the touchscreen. The end-user doesn’t interact directly with this part of the infrastructure, but it is nonetheless essential for building and deploying apps.
An application needs an operating system to be able to run, and the PaaS vendor needs to provide this so that developers can work on and test their applications.
Database management as part of the PaaS vendor package is another helpful tool that reduces some of the steps required by developers to get their apps up and running.
In addition to everything listed above, PaaS also includes all of the benefits of IaaS. The infrastructure required to host and share apps is also included in the PaaS model. This includes physical storage and data centres. The PaaS vendor will either own this infrastructure or hire the space from an IaaS provider and then resell this to the developer.
Why do developers use PaaS?
Developers use the PaaS model as it provides everything they need to be able to create and deploy apps with minimal investment upfront. This helps to free up business capital for other tasks such as developer fees and marketing costs. There are some other distinct advantages to using the PaaS model over internal hosting.
- Bring applications to market faster. With the hosting infrastructure, middleware, database management and development tools taken care of, app developers can focus on the task of building and deploying their app. Since PaaS vendors are trusted by many app developers to help create and deploy their apps, newcomers to the market can spend less time thinking about what goes on behind the scenes and more time planning their app development.
- Cost-effective solution. When choosing the PaaS model, app developers can take an agile approach that does not tie up resources in the early stages. Flexible PaaS hosting will enable small developers to make the most of their position and only pay for the resources they actually use. But when the time comes to expand their reach, their hosting model will easily be able to keep pace.
- All licensing is under one package. Rather than pay for individual licences for operating systems, development tools and more, app developers can take advantage of the ease of keeping everything in one place.
- Collaborate in one environment. Cloud hosting and one environment for your app development process allow teams to work seamlessly and collaborate from anywhere in the world. Keeping everything in the same environment also eliminates the risk of last-minute bugs delaying the launch of your app. Using PaaS vendors can help to simplify the app development process and increase productivity at the same time.
- No maintenance costs. When you don’t own the infrastructure, you aren’t responsible for the upkeep, maintenance and upgrades. By outsourcing this essential part of app development, you can focus on the tasks that will help to drive your business forward.
- Cutting edge technology. PaaS vendors rely on their customers being happy with the tools they offer, which incentivises them to ensure they are always offering the most up-to-date tools.
What to look for in a PaaS vendor
The PaaS vendor you choose will all depend on the application you are hoping to develop, how quickly you need to bring it to market, and what level of support you need to achieve this.
Look for a PaaS vendor that offers flexible hosting so that you can scale your app as required. A pay-as-you-go model will also help to ensure that you are only ever paying for what you need, rather than wasting money paying up to a threshold.
You should also look for a vendor that offers round the clock support. Whether you are in the development stage and need help with a feature before you can move forward, or you’re just launched and you’ve encountered a bug, you need to know that your PaaS provider will be available to provide support promptly.
And finally, you should also look for a PaaS vendor with robust security provisions. When launching an app into the world, you need to know that the end-user will be protected from potential breaches, without having to invest in additional measures.