What is PaaS? - Platform as a Service Explained
What is PaaS?
Platform as a Service or PaaS is a set of cloud based services that enable business users and developers to build applications at a speed that on-premise solutions cannot match. As it’s a cloud based service there’s no need to worry about the set-up and maintenance of servers, patching, upgrades, authentication, and so on, users can just focus on creating the best user experience possible. PaaS also delivers a set of additional services such as workflow and design tools and rich APIs all intended to help business users and developers create applications that delight their users.
Successful companies in today's business world are the ones that put the customer at the centre of what they do. One easy way to facilitate that is by providing customer-friendly web applications and services that enable high-quality service and support. So for companies developing apps why opt for a platform as a service, instead of creating the facilities to do this on your the premises?
The move to PaaS
In the past, businesses started by building and developing their own apps. This demanded server space, software to create programming environments and security to keep everything safe on the premises. That often meant complex software stacks, frequent updates, hardware maintenance and investing a lot of money in an on-premise environment to help them build apps become out-dated very quickly. All in all, an expensive solution in terms of both time and money.
Development tools evolve fast and suddenly you're using yesterday’s interface and yesterday’s technology. Businesses started looking for solutions to help speed up the process and make it cheaper and easier to create the apps they needed. The first to seek more efficient options were businesses already outsourcing other areas of computing services – such as cloud-based software services for recruitment, marketing, or travel and expense management. They looked for an external answer to their internal problem.
PaaS helps developers and business users focus on build great apps with clicks & code without having to worry about infrastructure and operating systems. Development tools, servers and programming environments are readily accessible, via the cloud, without the complexity and expense of creating them in-house. Apps can be developed and hosted faster and with very low setup costs, without the risk of delays or inefficiencies caused by infrastructure issues. Put simply, PaaS allows developers to concentrate on what they do best, so they can produce high-quality results, faster.
PaaS is part of a family of cloud computing tools which includes Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Everything as a Service (XaaS). The cloud computing model allows organisations to outsource computing services so they can dedicate more energy to their core business.
Characteristics of PaaS
The best PaaS services provide a complete suite of tools and services to make a developer's life a simple as possible. Here are 8 Core services we recommend you look for in a PaaS provider’s offering:
Mobile Software Development Kit (SDK) ‐ more and more business is being done over mobiles. The number of different handset manufacturers and models makes it imperative to use all the opportunities available and make sure what you build works well on the range of devices in use. A good PaaS option will support you in this. For example, Salesforce mobile SDK is an open source suite of familiar technologies – like REST API and OAuth 2.0 – that makes it easy to build mobile apps. It supports 3 development approaches to building mobile apps: native, HTML 5, hybrid
Social and mobile built-in ‐ social is no longer limited to personal use. It’s increasingly integrated in business contexts, driving staff productivity and customer engagement. If you are considering PaaS as a solution, make sure it can help you deliver social and mobile apps. Many IT departments have struggled to keep pace with the new business requirement for mobile and social, and lack the skills to carry out this kind of project. Using a PaaS environment makes it far easier to leverage existing skills, bringing your organisation up to date faster and more easily.
Rich developer environment ‐ as well as allowing developers to build engaging, customer-facing apps, a high-quality PaaS solution gives developers everything they need to iterate quickly, helping with testing and debugging. With a rich developer environment, they can make changes and deploy them instantly, scale with ease, and get full control, infinite capacity, and independent scaling for each component of an app. It assists with short-cuts, helped by complete and open APIs plus libraries and code created internally or externally. You can also expect to find IDE, Sandbox and ALM tools for app management.
Fully managed cloud database ‐ a good PaaS solution should provide you with fully managed infrastructure that can scale beyond your current needs. Being fully managed also means that it will be secure and meet the trust requirements of organisations that need mandatory data privacy and regulatory compliance.
Point-and-click app building ‐ an advanced PaaS solution isn’t just for developers. PaaS empowers business users without coding skills to deliver their own solutions. Support for business-level services includes drag-and-drop page layouts, point-and-click field creation plus reporting dashboards. It helps business users rapidly create apps that don't add to the IT backlog yet remain compliant with your other app development.
Multi-language development ‐ Multi-language support means developers can use and build on their existing skills, with apps written in the language that best suits their delivery and business goals. Platforms like Salesforce Heroku can handle languages like Python, Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Scala, Java and all JVM languages and more. Integration with existing workflow strategies including Git, Continuous Integration and DevOps mean there’s no need to add more processes.
Cloud app marketplace ‐ an app marketplace is a single source for thousands of valuable shortcuts for businesses – here you can find the tools to help you customise and extend your PaaS services. Rather than build your own, you can rely on the thousands of reviews to find trusted apps to do what you need. And because they’re on your PaaS provider’s common platform, you know they will integrate easily giving you a unified user experience.
Learn more about Salesforce Platform
Ultimately, Platform as a Service eliminates the expense and complexity of evaluating, buying, configuring, and managing all the hardware and software needed for custom-built applications. This has both technical and business advantages.
Moving to a managed platform allows your technical team to concentrate on building apps and services that add value to your business. A good PaaS provider can offer you improvements in:
You get access to code libraries, app components and other help. You'll also get inspiration for great interface design, so that not only will your app be thoroughly usable, it will look beautiful too.
App development is faster because your IT and developers are no longer responsible for the hardware and software used to build, maintain and protect your application development platform.
It’s also quicker to get started. Once you have signed up to PaaS, you can start using the system straight away – no set-up time lag. For developers, being able to access tools, templates, code libraries and build packs can also reduce the time to release. For example, you can begin to create powerful apps from drag-and-drop components including standard fields, reports and charts.
Upfront costs are reduced, since there’s no need to build anything before you begin developing. Using a platform like Salesforce also helps with the standardisation and consolidation of resources and app components. You don't have to keep reinventing the wheel each time you build a new app, which cuts your development costs. Capital costs - money tied up in costly and fast depreciating IT assets - are removed in favour of operational costs that are offset against business ROI.
Designing apps for millions of connected devices creates potential scalability and security challenges. A popular consumer app can easily overwhelm a data centre, and your brand can take a big hit if the end-user experience suffers. Services like Instagram and Twitter process millions of posts each minute. While business apps are less likely to boom to this extent, if your app does exceed expectations, a cloud-based solution means you'll be able to take advantage of the situation.
No business wants to prioritise managing servers and patching operating systems over delivering their core products and services. With a cloud-based platform, that’s not even a possibility. Using an integrated platform also offers an opportunity to improve business processes like workflow, reporting and social feeds. Your business can save time, money and effort thanks to:
Easy integration with legacy systems ‐ you can use apps that incorporate data from your existing systems like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft. It can help you unlock and modernise back-office systems with point-and-click simplicity.
Real-time information ‐ you can create apps that deliver real-time data and updates to employees and managers, allowing them to make better business decisions. You can create apps to help with workflow and approval processes too.
Easier IT maintenance ‐ the vendor looks after the platform, so you just have to look after the apps themselves – reducing your IT overheads.
Shared insights ‐ with thousands of businesses using the platform, large-scale PaaS providers like Salesforce are quick to respond to user needs and solve common issues swiftly. That means you can quickly benefit from tried and trusted solutions.
By leveraging PaaS, organisations can redirect a significant portion of their budgets from “keeping the lights on” to creating applications that provide real business value."
PaaS vs traditional app development
The future of PaaS:
PaaS is driving a new era of mass innovation and business agility. It shares the same innovative roots as companies like Amazon, eBay, Google and YouTube, who created new capabilities in new markets through the browser. PaaS offers the same kind of cost-effective and specialised model for application development and delivery. For the first time, developers can focus on application expertise for their business, not managing complex hardware and software infrastructure.
As the digital environment matures, a number of drivers are strengthening the rationale for adopting cloud computing.
- The increasing standardisation of digital technologies
- Greater business use of mobile and mobile apps
- Growing popularity and usage of web-like interfaces
- Increasing broadband access and speed
There also is a trend for companies to continue to outsource by looking towards IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and XaaS (Everything as a Service) solutions to replace what would have traditionally been supplied locally and PaaS is one aspect of creating a complete solution.
Customer story: Coca-Cola Germany
Why the time is right for PaaS
You can grow your business faster by streamlining internal processes and connecting better with customers and suppliers. A platform approach means solutions will be more secure, faster and better value for money. Many enterprises are now looking to outsource non-core services, and they’re choosing PaaS because:
The technology is mature ‐ the ability to automate processes and use pre-defined components and building blocks makes the PaaS proposition attractive for businesses who need consistency and reliability
Flexibility is paramount ‐ businesses need to be fleet of foot to compete – and using platform services allows for innovation, scalability and affordability for every size of enterprise.
The business benefits add up ‐ the advantages of cost savings, speed of development and security offer real advantages that are hard for businesses to replicate using internal systems. Without these savings, the development costs of creating apps that keep pace with the market is fast becoming prohibitive.
Outsourcing software is a proven solution – and PaaS is a natural next step. If your business is focused on future growth, PaaS is not just an option worth considering – it’s an essential tool to have at your disposal.
Find out more about PaaS from Salesforce and discover how it could benefit your company.