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What is PaaS? Software development in the cloud

Bob Violino | Sept. 15, 2017
The cloud-provided application development platform provides greater flexibility in tools and less overhead so your programmers can focus on code

Research firm Gartner cites a variety of use cases for PaaS, including:

  • API development and management. Companies can use PaaS to develop, run, manage, and secure application programming interfaces and microservices. This includes the creation of new APIs and new interfaces for existing APIs, as well as end-to-end API management.
  • Business analytics/intelligence. Tools provided via PaaS let enterprises analyze their data to find business insights and patterns of behavior so they can make better decisions and more accurately predict future events such as market demand for products,
  • Business process management (BPM). Organizations can use PaaS to access a BPM platform delivered as a service as with other cloud offerings. BPM suites integrate IT components needed for process management, including data, business rules, and service-level agreements.
  • Communications. PaaS can also serve as a delivery mechanisms for communications platforms. This allows developers to add communications features such as voice, video, and messaging to applications.
  • Databases. A PaaS provider can deliver services such as setting up and maintaining an organization’s database. Research firm Forrester Research defines database PaaS as “an on-demand, secure, and scalable self-service database platform that automates provisioning and administration of databases and can be used by developers and non-technical personnel.”
  • Internet of things. IoT is expected to be a big part of PaaS usage in the coming years, supporting the wide range of application environments and programming languages and tools that various IoT deployments will use.
  • Master data management (MDM). This covers the processes, governance, policies, standards, and tools that manage the critical business data an enterprise owns, providing a single point of reference for data. Such data might include reference data such as information about customer transactions, and analytical data to support decision making.

PaaS technologies and providers

 

PaaS includes multiple underlying cloud infrastructure components, including servers, networking equipment, operating systems, storage, middleware, and databases. All of these are owned and operated by the service provider.

PaaS also includes resources such as development tools, programming languages, libraries, database management systems. and other tools from the provider.

Among the leading PaaS vendors are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Salesforce.com, Red Hat, Mendix, and Heroku. Most widely used languages, libraries, containers, and related tools are available on all the major PaaS providers’ clouds.

It’s no accident that several of these are also leading providers of software development tools. Gartner estimates there are about 200 PaaS providers today.

PaaS risks

Given that PaaS is a cloud-based service, it comes with many of the same inherent risks that other cloud offerings have, such as information security threats. PaaS is based on the concept of using shared resources such as networks and servers, so the security risks include placing critical data into this environment and having they data stolen due to unauthorized access or attacks by hackers or other bad actors.

 

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