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PaaS: What You Need to Know
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PaaS: What You Need to Know

What is PaaS, what makes it unique, and how does it work within organizations? Here’s what you need to know.
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​​​​When it comes time to choose application solutions for your company, you can’t afford to rely on anything that will disappoint you, your employees, or your customers. 

However, with so many tech solutions and software options available, it can be difficult to know where your research should begin. For this reason, we’ve compiled information about one such option — Platform as a Service, or PaaS — to help you understand what this service is, how it’s differentiated from other solutions, and why it’s a must-have foundation for your entire digital strategy.

Let’s take a look at PaaS.

What is PaaS?

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a cloud computing and service model in which software, apps, and other tools are delivered digitally as part of a cohesive platform. These assets can immediately turn teams into application developers, enabling you to leverage internal design capacity for far more than basic apps.

Here are a few of the most important things to know about PaaS:

What Does PaaS Do?

A PaaS platform offers many capabilities and functionalities depending on your needs. However, its most important role is to support your work in application development and deployment. For example, you can use your platform to:

Design, test, and deploy applications.

Where Do PaaS Tools Exist? 

Unlike some on-premises solutions, PaaS doesn’t rely exclusively on wires, hardware, or other physical components. Instead, PaaS is a cloud service. All of its data, software, development tools, and application information exist digitally and can be accessed remotely.

Do Users Host Their Own PaaS Platform?

PaaS is hosted by a platform service provider, or PaaS vendor, who acts as your partner in designing and utilizing the platform. This vendor manages and runs software on its internal infrastructure, which means your teams are spared the time, money, and energy required to install hardware and software in-house. The result is a foundation for the simpler, more efficient development of cloud applications.

What Advantages Does PaaS Offer Over On-Site Solutions?

Although on-site solutions have long been the default, digitization and mounting customer expectations have illuminated the true limitations of this approach. PaaS offers cloud computing as an alternative, eliminating the inherent risks and costs associated with an entirely physical infrastructure for designing applications. In place of these pitfalls, PaaS introduces a wealth of advantages:

  • Flexibility: Cloud computing allows you to reorganize or restructure your applications as desired, giving you the flexibility necessary to keep up with a fast-changing digital ecosystem. Unlike on-site solutions, a PaaS platform makes it possible to amend a strategy or update application offerings without significant downtime.

  • Reliability: On-site hardware is vulnerable to a variety of hazards, from theft and accidental damage to destruction caused by natural disasters. Cloud applications, on the other hand, can be digitally secured and aren’t subject to the same risks as physical hardware.

  • Accessibility: Accessing data can become complicated or even impossible when on-site tools create frustrations, limitations, and location restrictions. With a PaaS solution, your data and apps exist in the cloud — which means critical tasks can be completed from any location with internet access.

  • Cost savings: Physical components require maintenance, repairs, and constant care just to operate smoothly. PaaS overcomes these costs and delivers digital solutions without the need for high-priced upgrades to your hardware or software, allowing you to manage your cloud applications on more budget-friendly devices.

Note that, while it significantly reduces the need for on-premises hardware, a PaaS solution doesn’t completely replace your IT infrastructure. Instead, it helps you leverage your existing infrastructure to utilize the platform hosted by your service provider.

Different Types of PaaS

There are three main types of PaaS: public, private, and hybrid. These types are defined by their design as well as the ways in which they can be utilized.

Here’s a closer look at each type of PaaS:

  1. Public PaaS
    Public PaaS takes its name from the public cloud in which it’s most commonly used. It allows users to focus on their role as developers, enabling application testing and deployment while the PaaS vendor manages servers, operating systems, and other elements of the infrastructure. Examples of public PaaS include Salesforce Heroku and Microsoft Azure.

  2. Private PaaS
    A private PaaS solution, on the other hand, is used in your private cloud. It offers far more control over details like which cloud provider is used and how the infrastructure is managed. However, this also increases IT workloads, as internal experts are generally responsible for firewalls and other on-site elements of the infrastructure. Popular examples of private PaaS include Apprenda and Red Hat OpenShift.

  3. Hybrid PaaS
    If neither public nor private PaaS solutions fit perfectly into your business, the third option may be especially appealing: hybrid PaaS. As a combination of public and private cloud computing, hybrid PaaS maintains the flexibility and simplicity of the former while offering the control and granular visibility of the latter. One example of hybrid PaaS is the partnership between Google Cloud Platform and Nutanix, which utilizes both private and public elements.

PaaS vs. IaaS vs. SaaS

Although PaaS is a specialized offering and has a long list of rich benefits for companies like yours, its close relationship to other as-a-service models can lead to some confusion. Here’s a closer look at what makes PaaS unique from two other models:

PaaS vs. IaaS

Infrastructure as a service, or IaaS, is a cloud computing solution in which a third-party service provider hosts key elements of your infrastructure, including:

  • Networks

  • Data storage

  • Servers

  • Web applications

  • Cloud applications

Examples of IaaS include Cisco Metacloud, Rackspace, and Linode. 

Note that PaaS and IaaS are closely related, as infrastructure-as-a-service is an integral part of platform-as-a-service offerings. However, while IaaS is a simpler self-service solution focused only on providing access to those IT elements, a PaaS vendor has an active role in helping scale and manage platform tools.

PaaS vs. SaaS

Software as a service, or SaaS, is another similar yet separate model. SaaS examples include DropBox and Hubspot.

The difference between SaaS and PaaS is in the distribution of responsibilities. While PaaS puts users in control of application development, providing the platform and cloud service as a foundation for internal creation, software as a service (SaaS) puts all of these responsibilities in the hands of a trusted service provider. That means companies using SaaS don’t design, test, deploy, or manage their own applications — instead, they’re accessing ready-made apps created and hosted by a third party.

A Closer Look at PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS

After identifying the differences between different as-a-service offerings, it’s important to take the next step — which is to analyze where PaaS stands in comparison to these similar models.

Put simply, PaaS is the “middle ground.” It offers the underlying infrastructure support of IaaS without the complete outsourcing required by SaaS, allowing your development team to outsource networks, servers, and other key elements of application or software development without giving up control of the overall process. 

Here’s what that looks like:

  • IaaS provides infrastructure support but no framework for developing or deploying applications.

  • PaaS offerings include infrastructure and development tools, creating a solid framework without taking key decisions out of your hands.

  • SaaS is a solution best suited for those who would rather not develop their own software, allowing users to choose ready-made applications instead of designing their own.

In short, PaaS offers a balance between support and flexibility — an important differentiating factor in the as-a-service world.

Who Oversees PaaS?

Because any PaaS offering PaaS is inherently a partnership rather than a self-service tool, it’s necessary to determine ahead of time who is responsible for PaaS.

PaaS Provider Responsibilities 

As the “owner” of PaaS infrastructure, a PaaS provider has certain responsibilities. These include:

  • Building and deploying software offerings within the PaaS solution.

  • Ensuring smooth, reliable delivery of service.

  • Helping companies scale PaaS platform tools to meet specific needs.

  • Maintaining PaaS software.

  • Providing services that align with agreed-upon expectations.

  • Troubleshooting and addressing technical issues.

User Responsibilities 

As a user of a PaaS platform, you have responsibilities of your own. However, these are all predicated on the concept of a partnership: Your applications are built on a third-party framework. As such, you’re less responsible for the underlying infrastructure and more focused on the effective design and implementation of your apps. That being said, many internal stakeholders are involved in overseeing PaaS:

  • The CIO may spearhead PaaS implementation, acting as the main liaison between your company and your PaaS provider.

  • Developers, as main users of a PaaS solution, often have a say in its selection and deployment.

  • IT administrators are often responsible for integrating PaaS software into existing infrastructure and managing anything not covered by the PaaS provider.

  • Customer service experts may also have some involvement in the utilization of a PaaS solution, as their expertise can help create customer-facing apps that shape and support the customer experience.

Consumer Responsibilities

Although a PaaS provider offers tools and software which you use to develop and deploy cloud applications, the true end-user when developing customer-facing applications is your audience. Depending on how your application is designed, consumers may have minor tasks — for example, installing supporting software or maintaining their accounts — but they aren’t responsible for any hosting, maintenance, or updating tasks. 

Explore As-a-Service Options

Are you looking for an alternative to expensive on-site tools for developers? PaaS is a far more effective way to design, build, deploy, and manage your company’s applications — and it’s accessible, reliable, and flexible due to its roots in cloud computing.

At Liferay, we believe customer experience is at the core of everything a company does. For us, that means supporting you with the tech tools and software necessary to create rich, efficient applications; for you, that means choosing the right as-a-service option to serve your own customers. Through our cloud-based solutions and comprehensive platform offerings, we can become part of your team — just one more way for you to deliver the unforgettable experiences your audience deserves.

Explore our platform to see what’s in store for your business.

Originally published
August 16, 2022
 last updated
August 16, 2022
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