What is PaaS? FAQs about uses, security, frameworks

Caroline de Lacvivier offers a brief answer to the question, what is PaaS? She also explores frequently asked questions about uses, security and more.

While still a newer concept than the more established software as a service, platform as a service (PaaS) has time-saving benefits, as well as feature offerings that have launched the service to greater popularity. That said, there is still quite a bit of confusion about what qualifies as PaaS and how the different iterations of PaaS compare to one another. Not only are there dozens of providers, with new ones created all the time,...

there are many different categories of PaaS, all touting different approaches, features and delivery models.

What follows offers a brief answer to the question, what is PaaS? It explores the most frequently asked questions regarding this fast-growing "as a service." It also aims to clarify some misconceptions about PaaS and, most importantly, offers advice on how to navigate provider selection -- a crucial, if confusing, undertaking.

What is PaaS?

According to Stephanie Mann's article on the subject, "What is PaaS: Experts explain growing role in 'as a service' family," PaaS was originally invented for one reason: cloud applications. In its more modern connotation, PaaS might be more aptly defined as services available for rent on the Internet. These could be anything from hardware to storage to network capacity to operating systems.

What are some benefits of PaaS?

In an article citing the benefits of PaaS, Adam Riglian wrote that time savings was the primary advantage of using a third-party platform, his reason being that Internet services can take on operations responsibilities while the development team can focus on writing code. While it's the most commonly cited benefit, time savings is certainly not the only one. PaaS vendors also provide new capabilities, such as collaboration tools, continuous integration and configuration management, among other things.

How do I go about choosing the right PaaS?

PaaS security should be a primary consideration when selecting a provider.

A 2013 TechTarget Cloud Pulse Survey found that almost half of respondents chose PaaS for shortsighted reasons. Many chose PaaS because it was already a part of their cloud ecosystem. Others based their decision on how easily the platform integrated with their existing architecture. According to an article about PaaS selection criteria, companies shouldn't feel compelled to pick a PaaS just because it's on the same platform they use. It's far more important to consider long-term cloud goals, then choose a provider that's in alignment with that vision.

Could PaaS benefit my company's mobile initiative?

Absolutely. With the rise of bring your own device, companies are wrestling with new, increasingly complex mobile device management concerns. By extension, they are turning to PaaS as a means of bringing more coherence, traceability and even autonomy into their employee's mobile experience. One example is a class of PaaS tools that wrap mobile apps in a kind of envelope that then provides certain governance capabilities. Tom Nolle goes deeper in his article on empowering mobile workers with private PaaS.

What's a multi-cloud PaaS framework and why would I want one?

To put it simply, a multi-cloud PaaS framework allows companies to deploy their PaaS infrastructure across multiple cloud providers, whether public, hybrid, or private. This strategy has certain advantages. For example, a developer could write an application once, then scale it or move it across different cloud providers based on operations or rules. The Apache Software Foundation has released a multi-cloud PaaS framework called Apache Stratos 4.0.

What should I know about PaaS security?

PaaS security should be a primary consideration when selecting a provider. Too often, this aspect is not prioritized, an oversight that can lead to ruinous breaches. According to a survey by the Ponemon Institute, 36% of businesses don't have a centralized cloud security policy. Almost half don't monitor employee activity in private clouds. George Lawton's article on gauging PaaS provider security offers four guidelines: Know who's responsible; know the terms; know the boundaries; know the provider's reputation.

Is PaaS adoption accelerating or declining over the years?

The trend points to a rise in PaaS adoption, and all indications suggest the trend will continue in this direction. In an article on open source PaaS, Judith Gell, an Eclipse Scout software developer, said that most people using Scout were primarily interested in the platform. She believes the main reason for PaaS' popularity is the amount of work it frees up for developers.

Where can I find more information on PaaS?

This PaaS Essential Guide provides in depth information on choosing the right PaaS provider. It also clarifies the meaning of private PaaS and elucidates mobile, governance and security concerns in this regard. Most importantly, it answers the simple yet complex question: What is PaaS?

This was first published in June 2014

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