Platform as a Service (PaaS) has been pitched to development teams as a way to handle the operations work and allow them to simply write code. But that is just one aspect of PaaS.
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Different platforms are designed for different things, and while all PaaS providers share the same underlying principles, not all excel at the same tasks. Vendors are often focused on different aspects of the application lifecycle. Some are focused on continuous integration and delivery and rapid deployments while others are centered on managing applications once they are deployed.
Paul Burns, analyst with Fort Collins, Colo., consulting group Neovise, believes that PaaS has been used as too much of a catch-all. One specific focus Burns sees as growing is moving existing applications to the cloud with a PaaS platform.
“You take an existing application and you make it run in a cloud environment and take advantage of some of the underlying capabilities like elasticity,” he said.
Platform vendors are pitching more than just the ability to move existing apps into the cloud. Collaboration tools for distributed development teams, continuous integration and deployment tools and configuration management capabilities are all becoming standard across PaaS.
Burns works with many users who are interested in moving existing applications to the cloud but don’t understand how to do it. He said many of them eventually go the PaaS route, seeking out platforms with a focus on application lifecycle management. While Burns sees many users looking for those types of platforms, independent analyst Krishnan Subramanian said that enterprises moving essential applications into the cloud are still several years away.
“Nobody has really taken it to that level,” he said.
Enterprises that are moving some applications to the cloud are hoping to gain “greater resiliency and interoperability with different environments” even if the applications weren’t designed for the cloud, Burns said.
Platform as a Service different for developers
Jérémy Hérault, a France-based independent Java developer, said his job has changed dramatically since the introduction of PaaS. He said developers are now hosting source code and applications with a PaaS platform and using continuous integration tools during the development and deployment stages.
Hérault believes PaaS has changed the way applications are managed in general, by centralizing and standardizing build and deployment lifecycles in one place for an entire development team. The centralization is part of what creates the speed at which cloud applications are built.
Adding value to PaaS
Jeff Kaplan, managing director of Wellesley, Mass., consulting group THINKstrategies, sees many PaaS users trying to extend the value of a product they already own. While development is PaaS’ most talked-about use case, other aspects of the application lifecycle are perhaps the larger uses.
“Most of them are basically extending the value of the core application that they already invested in. Salesforce is the clearest example of this,” Kaplan said, adding that a company that has already invested in that type of platform is more likely to build add-ons to extend it rather than develop and deploy new applications. “It’s similar to what we saw back in the client-server arena, but a lot simpler and a lot more economical and likely the success is higher as well.”
Kaplan uses the example of an enterprise building CRM applications on a platform that is unique to its business and valuable to it specifically. Platforms that gain large third-party developer followings are often set up so they can add value to the platform and build applications on top of it.