Your Network and the Cloud: Understanding PaaS

Whirlpool ImageWelcome to the second part of our series on cloud computing. (See part one here.) With more businesses using cloud computing, it’s essential to customize and optimize your network so that it’s right for the services you want to run.

In the last article we looked at the bottom layer of the cloud computing pyramid which was infrastructure as a service (IaaS) – the outsourcing of hardware needs. Now it’s time to look at the middle tier of the pyramid. You might hear some people call it middleware but more commonly these days it’s called platform as a service (PaaS).

PaaS Explained

PaaS can be a bit confusing, because it seems to overlap with IaaS, at least according to Techtarget:

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a way to rent hardware, operating systems, storage and network capacity over the Internet. The service delivery model allows the customer to rent virtualized servers and associated services for running existing applications or developing and testing new ones.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) explains it a little differently:

The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.

In a nutshell, PaaS lets you use outsourced solutions for creating and using web applications without having to buy and maintain the underlying software and infrastructure. PaaS vendors create programming languages on servers and give developers access to them. Offerings from a PaaS vendor might include providing commercial servers and operating systems, and it will certainly include platforms for the hosting, development and design of applications (such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and others), managing web applications, storage and security. All PaaS options work within the browser, so there is no need for complex interfaces. If you are moving to the cloud, this makes it easier to create network and other applications for your business.

How Can IT Admins Use PaaS?

If you want to develop software for a particular platform, using PaaS tools designed for that platform makes sense. And PaaS also works well for collaborative development, except in cases where portability is more important than the platform. The need to use proprietary application languages can also be a contraindication, says Rackspace. PaaS can help IT administrators test applications, create Web-based user interfaces, use a common core for integrating databases in different web services and collaborate with other members of the development team via project management and communication tools. PaaS can also help you get your network ready for the hybrid cloud, says Mauricio Rojas,CTO of K10 Networks.

PaaS: Pros and Cons

PaaS has one major disadvantage: developers may be limited to the tools provided for particular platforms and may be locked into that platform as a result. That might make it difficult to change PaaS providers later. However, PaaS deployments offer flexibility and security as well as a major business advantage to PaaS – developers have to do less coding and therefore development of business applications takes less time, which means you can get to market quicker.

Additional Resources

Learn how Lumos can prepare your network for cloud computing and PaaS.

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