What is PaaS?

Platform as a Service, often simply referred to as PaaS, is a category of cloud computing that provides a platform and environment to allow developers to build applications and services over the internet. PaaS services are hosted in the cloud and accessed by users simply via their web browser.

Platform as a Service allows users to create software applications using tools supplied by the provider. PaaS services can consist of preconfigured features that customers can subscribe to; they can choose to include the features that meet their requirements while discarding those that do not. Consequently, packages can vary from offering simple point-and-click frameworks where no client side hosting expertise is required to supplying the infrastructure options for advanced development.

The infrastructure and applications are managed for customers and support is available. Services are constantly updated, with existing features upgraded and additional features added. PaaS providers can assist developers from the conception of their original ideas to the creation of applications, and through to testing and deployment. This is all achieved in a managed mechanism.

As with most cloud offerings, PaaS services are generally paid for on a subscription basis with clients ultimately paying just for what they use. Clients also benefit from the economies of scale that arise from the sharing of the underlying physical infrastructure between users, and that results in lower costs.

Below are some of the features that can be included with a PaaS offering:

Operating system
Server-side scripting environment
Database management system
Server Software
Network access
Tools for design and development

Software developers, web developers and businesses can benefit from PaaS. Whether building an application which they are planning to offer over the internet or software to be sold out of the box, software developers may take advantage of a PaaS solution. For example, web developers can use individual PaaS environments at every stage of the process to develop, test and ultimately host their websites. However, businesses that are developing their own internal software can also utilise Platform as a Service, particularly to create distinct ring-fenced development and testing environments.

Below are some of the benefits of PaaS to application developers:

- They don't have to invest in physical infrastructure; being able to "rent" virtual infrastructure has both cost benefits and practical benefits. They don't need to purchase hardware themselves or employ the expertise to manage it. This leaves them free to focus on the development of applications. What's more, clients will only need to rent the resources they need rather than invest in fixed, unused and therefore wasted capacity.
- Makes development possible for "non-experts"; with some PaaS offerings anyone can develop an application. They can simply do this through their web browser utilising one-click functionality. Salient examples of this are one-click blog software installs such as WordPress.
- Flexibility; customers can have control over the tools that are installed within their platforms and can create a platform that suits their specific requirements. They can "pick and choose" the features they feel are necessary.
- Adaptability; Features can be changed if circumstances dictate that they should.
Teams in various locations can work together; as an internet connection and web browser are all that is required, developers spread across several locations can work together on the same application build.
- Security; security is provided, including data security and backup and recovery.

In summary, a PaaS offering supplies an operating environment for developing applications. In other words, it provides the architecture as well as the overall infrastructure to support application development. This includes networking, storage, software support and management services. It is therefore ideal for the development of new applications that are intended for the web as well as mobile devices and PCs.

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