It seems that the past decade or so of noise around Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) was well worth it. The technology has now reached a level of maturity and scale to be regarded as a reliable solution for both large- and small-scale companies. Leveraging it, enterprises can achieve faster and more secure solutions, while saving themselves the pain of managing, provisioning, or monitoring compute, storage, and network components. Developers can spend most of their time doing what they should be doing – developing, customizing, and testing their applications. Moreover, it helps improve application release time, which can help get early user feedback.
Let’s take a look at the specific benefits PaaS brings to the table in application support and development.
Within the standard application support activities of incident and problem management, enterprises typically achieve a 25-35 percent net effort reduction when supporting an application in a PaaS environment. PaaS vendors now perform activities such as database and middleware management, which reduces the number of tickets for their setup and management. PaaS platforms that come with their own application monitoring tools don’t even raise a ticket when there’s a lag in application response due to proactive monitoring and auto-healing mechanisms. Other activities, such as daily checks and log management, are also managed by the PaaS vendor. Thus, enterprises can save considerable effort by distancing themselves from routine tasks and focusing on more productive work.
Similarly, for application development activities, PaaS can help achieve 25-40 percent efficiencies. Activities such as drafting an operational model become easier with PaaS, as features such as deployment views, infrastructure views, and monitoring views are already built in the platform. Most PaaS solutions come with pre-defined plans and SLA guarantees, so non-functional requirements testing for infrastructure availability isn’t required. Further, PaaS can facilitate automation in executing test scripts, taking backups, applying schemas, etc.
At the same time, choosing a PaaS solution to achieve the desired benefits can be a tall order. First, enterprises need to evaluate if the platform supports the technologies, programming languages, and middleware stacks its development teams use.
Here are the other key things you need to consider when zeroing in on a PaaS solution:
Considering PaaS’ potential business advantages, it’s difficult to overlook its value proposition. PaaS can make companies more agile and responsive to demand, scale up quickly, and avoid costly investments in infrastructure.
It also expedites application delivery by enabling developers to create and deliver software in a simple and automated fashion. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all PaaS solutions are alike, and there’s no single PaaS for all customer needs. To realize the desired benefits from any PaaS solution, you must carefully dovetail your enterprise’s unique requirements with the offerings of the PaaS vendor.
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A few months ago, Workday, the enterprise HCM software company, entered into the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) world by launching (or opening, as it said) its own platform offering. This brings back the debate of whether using PaaS to develop applications is the right way to go as an enterprise strategy.
While there are multiple arguments in favor of PaaS, an increasing number of application developers believe that APIs may be a better and quicker way to develop applications. Pro-API points include:
In addition, the rise of containers and orchestration platforms, such as Kubernetes, are bringing more sleepless nights to the Platform-as-a-Service brigade. Most developers believe containers’ role of standardizing the operating environment casts strong shadows on the traditional role of PaaS.
While containers were earlier touted as PaaS enablers, they will increasingly be used as an alternative approach to application development. The freedom they provide to developers is immense and valuable. Although PaaS may offer more environment control to enterprise technology shops, it needs to evolve rapidly to become a true development platform that allows developers focus on application development. And while PaaS promised elasticity, automated provisioning, security, and infrastructure monitoring, it requires significant work from the developer’s end. This work frustrates developers, and is a possible cause for the rise of still nascent, but rapidly talked about, serverless architecture. This is evident by the fact that most leading PaaS providers, such as Microsoft Azure, CloudFoundry, and OpenShift, are introducing Kubernetes support.
As containers get deployed for production at scale, they are moving out of the PaaS layer and directly providing infrastructure control to the developers. This is helping developers to consume automated operations at scale, a promise that PaaS couldn’t fulfill due to higher abstraction. Kubernetes and other orchestration platforms can organize these containers to deliver portable, consistent, and standardized infrastructure components.
However, given strong enterprise adoption, all is not lost for PaaS. Enterprises will take significant time to test containers as an alternative to a PaaS environment. Moreover, given that no major PaaS or IaaS vendor other than Google owns container technology, there is an inherent interest among large cloud providers such as AWS and Azure to build something as an alternative to containers. No wonder most of them are now pushing their serverless offerings in the market as an alternate architectural choice.
Which of these architectural preferences will eventually become standard, if at all, is a difficult pick as of today. Yet, while it’s a certainty that infrastructure operations will completely change in the next five years, most enterprise shops aren’t investing meaningfully in the new tools and skills that are required to make this shift. Thus, the futuristic enterprises that realize this tectonic shift will trample their competition. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
What has been your experience with containers, APIs, microservices, serverless, and Platforms-as-a-Service? Do you think you need all of them, or do you have preferences? Do share with me at [email protected].