Microservices Expo Authors: Liz McMillan, Ian Khan, Jason Bloomberg, Elizabeth White, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Cloud Security, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

PaaS, Present, and Future

Platform as a Service is more than just the buzzword of the day – it’s the development & deployment approach of our dreams

Recently large numbers of consumers in the US were understandably upset and angry when online purchases that they made in the days just prior to Christmas were not delivered in time. Yet it was not so long ago that online (and traditional mail order) purchases almost always took a very long time, often weeks, to arrive. Order-to-delivery times of a few days, now considered normal, were unheard of and overnight was almost impossible to achieve.

This is just one more example of the many ways in which instant gratification has become the norm rather than the exception. People expect answers and results immediately, whether they are online or operating in the physical world. In information technology, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is another evolution toward faster, "instant" gratification. PaaS offers a new way to support and deliver applications, leveraging cloud technology. It is still enabling the same activities involved with development and deployment that we have always practiced in IT, but with the cost, agility and scalability benefits of the cloud.

However, PaaS is faster - getting ideas to market quicker and opening new, cloud-based delivery options for existing applications. Because of the power it provides, it is clearly the "next big thing" for the developer community.

Understanding PaaS
Service is the key word in the PaaS acronym. Empowered by cloud computing service options, a PaaS computing platform can deliver a solution stack of services. PaaS service providers, in turn, offer up tools and libraries that support development, testing and instant deployment. It sounds simple and it is. To use an automotive analogy, it's like the development of electric starters... early Model Ts and other silent-film-era vehicles needed to be started by hand - like giant lawnmowers. At best it was unpleasant. At its worst, it could be dangerous.

But good engineering and new technology made electric starting systems affordable for everyone. No one missed the old way of doing things - people could concentrate on the task of driving and getting some place rather than the tricky art of simply starting the car.

PaaS is similar. It takes the familiar design-develop-deploy process and eliminates a lot of the cost and unpleasantness so you can concentrate on innovating, getting to market, and making money.

While there are many flavors of PaaS vendors, the common thread of offering application hosting services and deployment options is pretty much universal.

To make those concepts more understandable, I like to put PaaS into a visual structure that contrasts traditional on-premise practices with Infrastructure-a-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). In my simplified schematic (see illustration), the orange color denotes the functions that you need to worry about yourself. In the on-premises world, storage, server, networking, virtualization, the operating system, middleware, data, and applications all "belong" to you. It's a craft industry model where almost everything is procured, operated, managed, and customized by you and your organization. There are broad similarities from organization to organization, but there is always a lot of "reinventing the wheel."

For example, if performance is suffering due to storage limits (or even backups that are getting out of hand), you need to think about acquiring more hardware, refining tiering schemas, data management policies, retention goals, and more. Or if you need to bring remote users into the mix, it's up to you to provide the infrastructure.

For some organizations, that's fine. Maybe you are big enough that you can afford to be expert in every aspect and every layer of the stack. But for most organizations, simplifying the picture and focusing more on areas where they can better add value makes sense. Thus, IaaS - typified by services like Rackspace and AWS - has become a hugely popular option for deploying new or supplemental capacity and capability, and even providing a total replacement for on-premise investments.

The cloud-based IaaS providers offer physical or virtual machines and storage and the ability to scale services up and down according to customers' varying requirements (a so-called utility model).

PaaS Is the Next Step
PaaS takes the proven approach of IaaS and adds value - the expertise and the specific technology of the operating system and middleware layers - so that you can focus on your data and your key applications. While IaaS provides the elements of cloud computing to those with the capabilities to build their own platforms, PaaS goes a step further, delivering complex and highly labor-intensive middleware technology patterns.

PaaS is flexible and powerful - allowing self-service and self-provisioning of resources to support cloud architectures.

With PaaS, you bring your application, and the PaaS provider takes care of everything else, including:

  • Internet connectivity
  • Power
  • hardware
  • Operating systems
  • Databases
  • Web servers
  • Application servers
  • Monitoring
  • Backup
  • Restore
  • Failover
  • Scaling

Choices and the Market
Although PaaS is new, it's rapidly gaining momentum, with growth projected at 48 percent annually by Technavio, the research firm, and topping $6 billion in value by 2016.

As with any new technology or approach to doing business PaaS will appeal to different groups for different reasons. For example, PaaS can help ISVs extend the availability of a traditional software product or enable organizations to add new capabilities to their existing IT spectrum. It's also helpful to anyone wishing to achieve productivity gains, speed time to results, or reduce their capex costs.

Productivity PaaS offerings are often a model-driven approach to development and deployment that invoke high level programming languages, or even template-based software to help users, including those with little or no coding background, to create functioning business applications. Deployment is greatly simplified through PaaS because developers don't have to think about architecting, managing, or scaling the virtual machines that support the application.

PaaS offers a rapid route to SaaS if you want to be able to offer your application as a service and reach customers wherever they are. Likewise, if you are developing a new application, you want to eliminate boundaries. By choosing the right PaaS provider you can avoid concerns about development language or database technology. The PaaS provider can abstract those things in a way that allows you to focus on delivering functionality and value.

In the past, building an application required a commitment to a language or a database technology. With PaaS you don't need to be concerned about those issues. You only need to worry about your business domain expertise and usability.

Likewise, if you are aiming to modernize or use code you already have, PaaS will help expedite the trip to the cloud. It obviates the need to think about middleware and infrastructure and makes use of wizards and templates to update your application and even deliver new features quickly.

There are both public and private deployment options for PaaS. Many organizations love the idea of PaaS but, for a variety of reason, still balk at putting their mission-critical capabilities into a shared, public, environment. If that is the case for you, choose a PaaS that can be deployed in your own cloud environment where you can maintain some control, such as security and where data gets stored. This affords you the simplicity of PaaS and ensures future portability while providing the sense of security and ownership that many organizations still prefer.

Understanding some more about PaaS is the first step to selecting a provider. In addition, you should consider factors such:

  • Programming languages,
  • Database servers
  • Availability
  • Support
  • Ease of deployment and options
  • Portability
  • Security
  • Pricing

PaaS Now
PaaS technologies are so compelling because they have the potential to accelerate software development while recasting the way IT supports application development.

As you adopt PaaS, be sure to maintain a balance between the desire for speed and the necessity of planning and control. Tooling can help, but people are crucial too. As with any technological shift, PaaS adoption requires changes in how people work and demands collaboration if it is to be as successful as possible.

Last, but not least, PaaS should be viewed and acted upon as a substantial strategic opportunity - a chance to align agendas across IT and across the business. Development, operations, security, and infrastructure choices are all part of the mix with PaaS, providing a "once in a generation" opportunity to clarify, improve, and strengthen everything you do.

More Stories By Karen Tegan Padir

Karen Tegan Padir joined Progress Software in 2012 as senior vice president and business line executive for application development and subsequently moved into the CTO role. Among her previous experiences, she was a member of the Java Platform, Enterprise Edition team at Sun, helping to create one of most important “next big things” for developers.

Comments (1)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, will discuss how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that e...
The reason I believe digital transformation is not only more than a fad, but is actually a life-or-death imperative for every business and IT executive on the planet is simple: there will be no place for an “industrial enterprise” in a digital world. Transformation, by definition, is a metamorphosis from one state to another, wholly new state. As such, a true digital transformation must be the act of transforming an industrial-era organization into something wholly different – the Digital Enter...
In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Claude Remillard, Principal Program Manager in Developer Division at Microsoft, will contrast how his team used config as code and immutable patterns for continuous delivery of microservices and apps to the cloud. He will show the immutable patterns helps developers do away with most of the complexity of config as code-enabling scenarios such as rollback, zero downtime upgrades with far greater simplicity. He will also have live demos of building immutable pipe...
Application transformation and DevOps practices are two sides of the same coin. Enterprises that want to capture value faster, need to deliver value faster – time value of money principle. To do that enterprises need to build cloud-native apps as microservices by empowering teams to build, ship, and run in production. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Neil Gehani, senior product manager at HPE, will discuss what every business should plan for how to structure their teams to d...
When we talk about the impact of BYOD and BYOA and the Internet of Things, we often focus on the impact on data center architectures. That's because there will be an increasing need for authentication, for access control, for security, for application delivery as the number of potential endpoints (clients, devices, things) increases. That means scale in the data center. What we gloss over, what we skip, is that before any of these "things" ever makes a request to access an application it had to...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Transparent Cloud Computing (T-Cloud) Consortium will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Transparent Cloud Computing Consortium (T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data proces...
The evolution of JavaScript and HTML 5 to support a genuine component based framework (Web Components) with the necessary tools to deliver something close to a native experience including genuine realtime networking (UDP using WebRTC). HTML5 is evolving to offer built in templating support, the ability to watch objects (which will speed up Angular) and Web Components (which offer Angular Directives). The native level support will offer a massive performance boost to frameworks having to fake all...
In many organizations governance is still practiced by phase or stage gate peer review, and Agile projects are forced to accommodate, which leads to WaterScrumFall or worse. But governance criteria and policies are often very weak anyway, out of date or non-existent. Consequently governance is frequently a matter of opinion and experience, highly dependent upon the experience of individual reviewers. As we all know, a basic principle of Agile methods is delegation of responsibility, and ideally ...
Today every business relies on software to drive the innovation necessary for a competitive edge in the Application Economy. This is why collaboration between development and operations, or DevOps, has become IT’s number one priority. Whether you are in Dev or Ops, understanding how to implement a DevOps strategy can deliver faster development cycles, improved software quality, reduced deployment times and overall better experiences for your customers.
Apache Hadoop is a key technology for gaining business insights from your Big Data, but the penetration into enterprises is shockingly low. In fact, Apache Hadoop and Big Data proponents recognize that this technology has not yet achieved its game-changing business potential. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, John Mertic, director of program management for ODPi at The Linux Foundation, will explain why this is, how we can work together as an open data community to increase adoption, and the i...
JetBlue Airways uses virtual environments to reduce software development costs, centralize performance testing, and create a climate for continuous integration and real-time monitoring of mobile applications. The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer performance engineering case study discussion examines how JetBlue Airways in New York uses virtual environments to reduce software development costs, centralize performance testing, and create a climate for continuous integration and real-tim...
All clouds are not equal. To succeed in a DevOps context, organizations should plan to develop/deploy apps across a choice of on-premise and public clouds simultaneously depending on the business needs. This is where the concept of the Lean Cloud comes in - resting on the idea that you often need to relocate your app modules over their life cycles for both innovation and operational efficiency in the cloud. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at19th Cloud Expo, Valentin (Val) Bercovici, CTO of So...
Virgil consists of an open-source encryption library, which implements Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS) and Elliptic Curve Integrated Encryption Scheme (ECIES) (including RSA schema), a Key Management API, and a cloud-based Key Management Service (Virgil Keys). The Virgil Keys Service consists of a public key service and a private key escrow service. 

SYS-CON Events announced today that eCube Systems, the leading provider of modern development tools and best practices for Continuous Integration on OpenVMS, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. eCube Systems offers a family of middleware products and development tools that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. ...

Let's just nip the conflation of these terms in the bud, shall we?

"MIcro" is big these days. Both microservices and microsegmentation are having and will continue to have an impact on data center architecture, but not necessarily for the same reasons. There's a growing trend in which folks - particularly those with a network background - conflate the two and use them to mean the same thing.

They are not.

One is about the application. The other, the network. T...

This is a no-hype, pragmatic post about why I think you should consider architecting your next project the way SOA and/or microservices suggest. No matter if it’s a greenfield approach or if you’re in dire need of refactoring. Please note: considering still keeps open the option of not taking that approach. After reading this, you will have a better idea about whether building multiple small components instead of a single, large component makes sense for your project. This post assumes that you...
DevOps is speeding towards the IT world like a freight train and the hype around it is deafening. There is no reason to be afraid of this change as it is the natural reaction to the agile movement that revolutionized development just a few years ago. By definition, DevOps is the natural alignment of IT performance to business profitability. The relevance of this has yet to be quantified but it has been suggested that the route to the CEO’s chair will come from the IT leaders that successfully ma...
@DevOpsSummit has been named the ‘Top DevOps Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @DevOpsSummit ranked as the number one ‘DevOps Influencer' followed by @CloudExpo at third, and @MicroservicesE at 24th.
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his session at @DevOpsSummit 19th Cloud Expo, Eric Robertson, General Manager at CollabNet, will show how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that enables everyon...