Platform as a service (PaaS) is a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud, with resources that enable you to deliver everything from simple cloud-based apps to sophisticated, cloud-enabled enterprise applications. You purchase the resources you need from a cloud service provider on a pay-as-you-go basis and access them over a secure Internet connection.
Like IaaS, PaaS includes infrastructure—servers, storage and networking—but also middleware, development tools, business intelligence (BI) services, database management systems and more. PaaS is designed to support the complete web application lifecycle: building, testing, deploying, managing and updating.
PaaS allows you to avoid the expense and complexity of buying and managing software licenses, the underlying application infrastructure and middleware or the development tools and other resources. You manage the applications and services you develop and the cloud service provider typically manages everything else.
Common PaaS scenarios
Organisations typically use PaaS for these scenarios:
Development framework. PaaS provides a framework that developers can build upon to develop or customise cloud-based applications. Similar to the way you create an Excel macro, PaaS lets developers create applications using built-in software components. Cloud features such as scalability, high-availability and multi-tenant capability are included, reducing the amount of coding that developers must do.
Analytics or business intelligence. Tools provided as a service with PaaS allow organisations to analyse and mine their data, finding insights and patterns and predicting outcomes to improve forecasting, product design decisions, investment returns and other business decisions.
Additional services. PaaS providers may offer other services that enhance applications, such as workflow, directory, security and scheduling.
Advantages of PaaS
By delivering infrastructure as a service, PaaS offers the same advantages as IaaS. But its additional features—middleware, development tools and other business tools—give you more advantages:
Cut coding time. PaaS development tools can cut the time it takes to code new apps with pre-coded application components built into the platform, such as workflow, directory services, security features, search and so on.
Add development capabilities without adding staff. Platform as a Service components can give your development team new capabilities without your needing to add staff having the required skills.
Develop for multiple platforms—including mobile—more easily. Some service providers give you development options for multiple platforms, such as computers, mobile devices and browsers making cross-platform apps quicker and easier to develop.
Use sophisticated tools affordably. A pay-as-you-go model makes it possible for individuals or organisations to use sophisticated development software and business intelligence and analytics tools that they could not afford to purchase outright.
Support geographically distributed development teams. Because the development environment is accessed over the Internet, development teams can work together on projects even when team members are in remote locations.
Efficiently manage the application lifecycle. PaaS provides all of the capabilities that you need to support the complete web application lifecycle: building, testing, deploying, managing and updating within the same integrated environment.