What is Platform as a service?

The market for PaaS is expected to double by 2022. Here’s why business leaders and DevOps teams are shifting app development to the cloud.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a category of cloud computing services that allows companies to move their software development and deployment operations into a cloud environment run by third-party vendors. Switching to cloud-based servers, development tools, and storage capacity saves time and money companies would otherwise spend on hardware and other on-prem resources to test and release applications.

Cloud computing has become a universal standard for enterprise operations in every industry and in myriad consumer experiences. From the cloud, many companies are running large-scale customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise risk management (ERM) applications, and using cloud-based machine learning algorithms to detect transaction fraud. For consumers, the cloud has become the global engine for everything from personal finance to shopping, dating, and entertainment.

According to AllCloud, an IT service provider, 85% of businesses will have a majority of their workloads on the cloud by 2021. As a result of this massive cloud migration, Gartner forecasts revenues of public, third-party cloud services will grow 17% in 2020.

Among the fastest-growing segments of the cloud services marketplace is Platform as a Service (PaaS)—cloud-based services for enterprise application development and deployment. Gartner has estimated the PaaS market will double in size between 2018 and 2022 and that PaaS will become the dominant software development model in the future.

Where does PaaS fit into the cloud?

PaaS sits among the three different types of cloud-based service models, between Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). IaaS offers instant computing infrastructure that can scale up or down on demand. SaaS allows organizations and consumers to use cloud-based apps.

PaaS, on the other hand, provides the servers and software that allow companies and developers to build and launch their own software applications . PaaS offers companies a faster, easier, and more scalable way to test, deploy, and run applications than would otherwise be possible in an on-prem or hybrid operation.

Read more: Cloud computing models explained 

PaaS in action

Here’s how it works. Core elements of PaaS include cloud-based operating systems, middleware, software, and other tools that companies use to develop and test applications on a unified platform, rather than an in-house operation requiring monitoring by IT and DevOps pros. PaaS manages the administrative details of setting up servers and virtual machines, installing run times, libraries, and middleware, and configuring and testing tools.

Building enterprise apps isn’t just about writing code. It also requires developers to address constantly changing considerations about user experience and graphic design. PaaS simplifies this iterative process. Rather than spending millions of dollars on hardware and countless hours on monitoring and maintenance, companies can tweak their apps in real time. This in turn allows organizations to focus on what’s most important to their businesses: their code and their customers.

PaaS also provides tools that help organizations analyze and mine data to derive insights and patterns that can help address security and resiliency issues while optimizing business forecasting, product design, and investment strategy.

Read more: PaaS examples 

What makes PaaS different?

As with anything, there are pros and cons to using a PaaS. Among the advantages, a PaaS makes developing or deleting applications fast and simple, even when working on multiple platforms.

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That kind of versatility, however, requires companies to give up a level of control, as no one in the organization is pushing the buttons and monitoring many PaaS processes. (Some companies consider that an advantage.) Some PaaS services also make switching to a competitor difficult.

On balance, the advantages of PaaS adoption seem to outweigh the limitations. With cloud-based solutions accounting for an ever-larger share of worldwide IT budgets (Gartner expects cloud spending to hit $266 billion in 2020, after growing 8.2% in 2019), a growing number of enterprises are replying on PaaS to optimize their operations and competitive advantages.

Read more: Is PaaS right for you?