Welcome!

Java Authors: Victoria Livschitz, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Larry Dragich

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA, Security, Big Data Journal, SDN Journal

Cloud Expo: 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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...