PaaS, or Platform-as-a-Service, is a cloud computing model that provides customers a complete cloud platform—hardware, software, and infrastructure—for developing, running, and managing applications without the cost, complexity, and inflexibility that often comes with building and maintaining that platform on-premises.
The PaaS provider hosts everything—servers, networks, storage, operating system software, databases, development tools—at their data center. Typically customers can pay a fixed fee to provide a specified amount of resources for a specified number of users, or they can choose 'pay-as-you-go' pricing to pay only for the resources they use. Either option enables PaaS customers to build, test, deploy run, update and scale applications more quickly and inexpensively they could if they had to build out and manage their own on-premises platform.
Every leading cloud service provider—including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, IBM Cloud and Microsoft Azure—has its own PaaS offering. Popular PaaS solutions are also available as open source projects (e.g. Apache Stratos, Cloud Foundry) or from software ventors (e.g. Red Hat OpenShift and Salesforce Heroku).
The most commonly-cited benefits of PaaS, compared to an on-premises platform, include:
In general, PaaS solutions have three main parts:
Because PaaS delivers all standard development tools through the GUI online interface, developers can log in from anywhere to collaborate on projects, test new applications, or roll out completed products. Applications are designed and developed right in the PaaS using middleware. With streamlined workflows, multiple development and operations teams can work on the same project simultaneously.
PaaS providers manage the bulk of your cloud computing services, such as servers, runtime and virtualization. As a PaaS customer, your company maintains management of applications and data.
Like PaaS, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are very common cloud computing service models. In fact it's very common for an organization to use all three—even if they don't purchase all three specifically. To clarify:
IaaS is internet access to 'raw' IT infrastructure—physical servers, virtual machines, storage, networking, firewalls—hosted by a cloud provider. IaaS eliminates cost and work of owning, managing and maintaining on-premises infrastructure. With IaaS the organization provides its own application platform and applications.
Any PaaS offering necessarily includes the IaaS resources required to host it, even if those resources aren't discretely broken out or referred to as IaaS.
SaaS is application software you use via the cloud, as if it were installed on your computer (in some cases, parts of it are installed on your computer). SaaS enables your organization to use an application without the expense of setting up the infrastructure to run it, and the effort and personnel to maintain it (apply bug fixes and updates, address outages, etc.) Salesforce and Slack are examples of popular SaaS offerings; most web applications are considered SaaS.
Every SaaS offering includes the IaaS resources required to host it and, at minimum, the PaaS components required run it. Some SaaS vendors also provide a discrete PaaS that allows third parties to customize the SaaS offering.)
By providing an integrated and ready-to-use platform—and by enabling organizations to offload infrastructure management to the cloud provider and focus on building, deploying and managing applications—PaaS can ease or advance a number of IT initiatives, including:
Many cloud, software and hardware vendors offer PaaS solutions for building specific types of applications, or applications that interacting with specific types of hardware, software or devices.
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