What is PaaS: Demystifying Paas Jargon
Tech conferences are fun to watch. There’s the new tech introduced, new ideas shared, product announcements, roadmaps, and more. There is also another side to tech speak that is funny on the surface but insidious on the inside - jargon.
Hyperconverged, hyper-automation, multi-experience, voice-as-UI, synergy, and other terms are thrown around too frequently. Outside of insider circles, few know what any of that stuff means. When used, it confuses anyone not trained in specific fields. At times, jargon is useful and even needed. Other times, like in tech, it can turn into a game of mashing together words whose meanings are already murky to begin with.
Before this turns into a rant about how jargon is an elitist way to keep outsiders out of certain professions and opportunities, let’s dive in and learn about PaaS jargon. Being part of what we deal with here, we think it’s only fair that anyone who wants to understand PaaS should be able to do so.
What is PaaS?
You know how you have a provider who hosts the hardware and software on their infrastructure, which is then delivered to you as an integrated solution, service, or solution stack over the internet? That’s PaaS.
This format is primarily used by and created for developers and programmers. With Platform as a Service, users have the opportunity to develop, run and manage their apps without having to build and maintain the infrastructure or platform that enables all that work to happen.
As a developer, you can write the code, develop the application, and maintain it without having to deal with the stress of building and maintaining your own infrastructure. The environment is built and deployed by the provider so that platform users can focus on their projects.
PaaS provides a way for developers to build and customize web-based applications. The built-in software components offer a way for the developers to create applications, therefore reducing the amount of code they have to write.
Some of the prominent global providers of such services include Red Hat OpenShift and AWS Elastic Beanstalk.
PaaS sits right between SaaS (software-as-a-service) and IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) in the cloud computing world. A cloud provider then uses Platform as a Service to offer the users networking, database, servers, middleware, infrastructure, analytics, monitoring, operating system (OS), storage, and integration with third-party services.
Programmers can then bring their code and app data to the PaaS platform. Remember that the PaaS platforms are not a substitute for coding itself. They are not an app builder but rather a place where coders can concentrate on the one thing they actually want to do - code!
As a programmer looking to use PaaS platforms, you will have to provide application-specific data. Aside from that, the rest of the work is done by the PaaS platform to enable you to build and deliver your app.
What does PaaS entail?
To make a clear distinction between PaaS and the rest of the XaaS (Anything as a Service) offerings, we will look at what PaaS does for an organization. When using SaaS, an organization chooses to outsource the entire technology stack and maintenance costs that come with it, to a third-party provider.
PaaS isn’t like that. It helps the users access key cloud services without spending too much on start-up costs while also cutting down on the time it takes to deploy. With Platform as a Service, the vendor provides you with access to components that include;
- Development tools
- Database management
- Business analytics
- Operating systems
- Security and firewalls
- Datacenter/physical building
In a nutshell, PaaS combines everything IaaS offers (the infrastructure) and adds operating systems, development tools, database management, analytics, and more to enhance the environment to be used to build apps.
Understanding Paas in cloud computing
The PaaS products offered in the market today are built to be used by software developers since they provide access to computing power, data storage on demand, functions (text editing, testing, management, and more). With PaaS, the users can collaborate with DevOps teams located in vastly different parts of the world to develop projects in the same business application development platform on cloud.
PaaS cloud services usually opt for a pay-per-use model. Vendors have different ways of calculating their charges, but usually, they follow the same pay-per-use model that explains what you pay when you use (X) service/objects or the number and speed of servers and total bandwidth used.
An Evaluation of PaaS
Though it is somewhat easy to define Platform as a Service, evaluating it is a whole other animal. An organization has to do due diligence during the buying process and not just buy into the hype without understanding it. For organizations or businesses looking to leverage PaaS, there are some considerations to make.
Let’s talk about them briefly:
- The evaluation expert(s)
Depending on how much work will go into transitioning to or using PaaS, you'll need an expert evaluation to gain insight into some crucial parts of the process. The considerations made have to approach the evaluation from networking, infrastructure, operations, and development angles simultaneously.
Each of these components of PaaS needs to be working correctly and to specifications suitable for you before you can choose them. The goal here is to identify your needs and evaluate your PaaS provider's ability to meet each one.
There has to be agility in considering how your business may change, how technologies may evolve, and what the future may hold to make a solid decision regarding what PaaS provider to choose.
- Value vs. trends
It’s not uncommon to find organizations jumping on the hottest trend right away. This rush to keep with the times can often harm the value proposition of the new trend. Current cloud deployment models that don't include PaaS work fine for some users and offer more value than hopping on the latest trend. With changing times, the truth of that statement changes. However, evaluating PaaS options is a great way to know if the transition is of value to you.
It’s not just that; the value vs. trends line of evaluation can branch into things like the use of a term like open-source in private PaaS. Is it really open-source, or is there a danger of lock-in? Why would companies invest in infrastructure technologies if they don't plan to profit from them?
To find the right value, one has to look for a PaaS offering that uses the current technologies developed (to provide cutting edge optimization and benefits) and bridges the gap between what’s available and new devs architecture that may come about as time goes by.
- The connection between value and applications in PaaS
If PaaS is available and no one utilizes it, does it really provide value? It seems like a simple enough way to look at it, but the actual value of Platform as a Service is in how many existing and new applications an organization/entity has on it.
With that in mind, it is worth noting that the evaluation should look for a PaaS solution that can onboard applications on the platform quickly and with minimal friction.
With apps, a company can help foster and sustain a culture of innovation that drives the adoption of new and useful technologies.
Advantages of PaaS
In many ways, and especially since it incorporates everything IaaS offers, PaaS is an upgrade that exists right below, giving away full control (SaaS) and keeping the amount of control needed to give you all the custom advantages.
The middleware, development tools, analysis tools, business tools, and other additional features give PaaS further advantages. Here are some of them:
- Coding time reduction - Platform as a Service development tools reduce the time it takes DevOps teams to code new apps, using pre-built features like workflow, security, and more.
- Enhanced devs capabilities at a lower cost - PaaS components can allow existing dev teams in their current state, without requiring additional staff, to access and use new capabilities with ease.
- Cross-platform development - PaaS platforms may sometimes give developers options to create apps for multiple platforms, making the process faster and simpler.
- Access to sophisticated tools - Vendors use pay-as-you-go models that allow access to sophisticated tools that would have otherwise been out of their financial reach, should the vendors have decided to sell them outright.
- Overcome geographical obstacles - When you have geographically distributed teams that need to collaborate on a project, PaaS platforms and an internet connection for those involved are enough to get the job done.
- Optimized application lifecycle - The integration platform as a service provides users with access to integrated capabilities needed to support the application during its entire development, cloud deployment, monitoring, and management cycles. All this happens without leaving the PaaS environment.
Disadvantages of PaaS
With all its advantages, PaaS, like many technologies, is not perfect. Its shortcomings include:
- Security responsibility - All your application data is stored in your PaaS provider’s database. Confidentiality can be an issue since the apps could (and often do) have private information that the provider can view. The responsibility then falls on the business to provide app security, which is why you have to select a trustworthy PaaS provider.
- Control - Users may have some control when using a PaaS platform, but they do not control everything. For instance, pricing is up to the provider. If the prices go up unpredictably, they could make the option too expensive. It is good to choose stable providers for reasons like that.
- Reliability - How much downtime are you looking at when you pick a certain PaaS provider? Outages have consequences, which is why it is ideal to have as few as possible since they seem to be quite unavoidable. It is always recommended to check out what backups and alternative plans are in place should such a thing happen.
- Compatibility issues - One must always be aware that compatibility affects what kind of provider you go with. PaaS may not always be compatible with existing development platforms, which means developers have to take what the provider gives them and figure out how to use it.
Other issues could be specific to particular users, which is why proper evaluation of a PaaS provider concerning your needs is important to discover any potential problems.
When Should You Make Use of PaaS?
The most crucial applications of PaaS platforms are well-studied and easy to deduce once you figure out how it works. In what scenarios would you need to deploy the services of a PaaS provider?
We have mentioned this software development use case several times since the article began because it is the primary use for PaaS platforms. The products offered include computing infrastructure, storage, and development tools that software teams can use to build apps without thinking about anything other than programming/coding.
On top of that environment, another advantage presents itself quickly - the reduced time to deployment and lowered startup costs. Typically, anyone looking to build and then distribute an app would have to build their own infrastructure, maintain it and think about every aspect of the software development cycle.
It can be overwhelming because there are so many steps involved in app development.
However, if one could simply pay for the playground, they need to build their idea and not have to worry about who mowed it or kept vandals out, they’d take way less time and money getting started. PaaS platforms are exactly like that - a playground for programmers/coders to just do the one thing they want to do - code!
PaaS products come with built-in software components integrated into apps for easier development. They include predefined workflows, security measures, search functions, and other universal components any developer would need when creating an app.
Well-designed PaaS platforms take the idea of a 'playground for developers' to an enhanced level by providing most/if not all of what's needed to go through an entire web applications development life cycle, including application deployment, updates, management, testing, and more.
Geographically separated teams
PaaS environments provide one environment that can be used by multiple people separated by vast geographical distance. As a cloud-based application platform, all the customers need is an internet connection to access the environment from wherever they may be.
Software teams can work on the same project without needing to be in the same location. We live in a world increasingly dependent on hybrid work models. Coupled with freelancer platforms that offer access to tested and trusted developers, getting a workforce together is easier, but that doesn’t always mean you will find them in the same country, let alone the same continent.
What happens then? You said it! Cloud computing steps right in, providing PaaS and turning that distance into a minor annoyance you’ll barely notice instead of a major obstacle that requires more money to overcome.
Private cloud implementation
The idea of a cloud that's just for you sounds lovely, and that's because it is. The idea is to have IT infrastructure used exclusively by you, the organization, business, or individuals looking to access a PaaS platform.
The infrastructure can be developed and implemented in-house or be operated by the provider. The whole point of the ‘private’ in a private cloud is like having a parking spot that no one else is allowed to use. You can achieve that by buying the parking lot space for yourself or reserving that spot from someone who already owns a parking lot.
Clumsy analogies aside, the private cloud can be customized to meet your specific needs for optimal results since you are the only one using the private cloud (whether you created one yourself or paid a provider to supply you with one).
Enterprise IT companies integrate private Platform as a Service in cloud computing operations to enable cloud deployment for new and existing apps, transition to a hybrid cloud architecture, or create microservices.
Typically, the organizations using private PaaS solutions maintain their systems using an IT operations team while a DevOps team streamlines the system to optimize app development and testing.
Analytics and BI (Business Intelligence)
PaaS use cases extend beyond just allowing programmers to code and do it from vast distances if they need to. PaaS platforms can provide the tools needed to analyze data and mine it for insights. Such analytical insights are useful in making business decisions, working out potential returns on investments, forecasting, and more.
The uses of Platform as a Service do not end there since the PaaS cloud services provided may be leveraged for other cloud applications like security, databases, workflows, and scheduling.
What is a container in Java?
In the simplest terms, without even using the word ‘abstraction,’ containers are packages of software containing the required elements to run in any environment. Containers allow us to virtualize operating systems and run them anywhere (your PC, a data centre, the public cloud, etc.).
An excellent example of a prolific container user would be Google, where everything runs in containers. Organizations can use containerization when they need fast and efficient software deployment.
Containers can be thought of as lightweight packages of app code and dependencies (programming language runtimes, libraries, etc.) that run software services.
With containers, one can easily share network resources, storage, memory, CPU usage, and the likes at the operating system level since apps can be abstracted (separated from) the environments in which they run.
How to containerize a codebase such as Java
Let’s use the example of the containerization of a codebase like Java.
What’s a codebase to begin with?
The complete aggregation of the source code for a given app or software is what we call the codebase (also spelled code base.) Source code is the version of the app or software a developer writes and then saves. That saved file can be stored to be changed, upgraded, or maintained throughout the software's supported period.
So, how do you containerize a codebase? There is no way to say this in two paragraphs but we can talk about it, so you know just how to prepare for it. Containerizing is not as easy as writing a dockerfile with instructions on how to run the app in a container.
You can do that but, you won’t be utilizing containers.
Pro Tip: Containers work best when they do one small thing and do it well, which is why a good approach is 'cutting up' the app into microservices (a term that refers to when an app is built-in independent pieces).
The microservice may be written in a variety of languages (like Java) or have different dependencies. You can even run the containers on different operating systems. However, your services have to be written with APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to give every individual service a way to communicate with any other via the API.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you cannot containerize everything, but you need to build what you can containerize into microservices. Why? Containers make it easy to work with microservices while also requiring microservices for you to get the full benefits they promise.
Containers are not persistent (they are not designed always to run, and are spun up and down as needed) and exist in an ephemeral state. However, that presents a problem because users' app data would disappear whenever they are spun down. That is why you should not be storing any data inside containers.
Just to be clear, you can run the database software for your app in a container, but you’d need to store your data elsewhere. Even though containers have this ephemeral quality going on, one of them going down should not affect the users because information about their state should be stored outside of the app with the rest of the data.
So, if a container winds down, even though a user may be in-between steps, another should seamlessly pick up without any user ever noticing that anything happened.
So, why design an app in tiny bits (microservices)? We have two words for you; horizontal scaling!
Let’s say you have more traffic on the app. All you need to do is spin up more of whatever microservice is receiving the heavy loads (akin to using a load balancer in cloud server instances). Design should always be such that any instance going up or down doesn’t affect users.
If you are ever in doubt, don’t forget to consult the 12-Factor App Manifesto, which has retained its relevance after a decade. The 12 steps it outlines are all about building apps with clean architecture and efficient processes. The steps, though debated, especially when it comes to some aspects of SaaS applications, one thing is clear - the manifesto will help you make good use of containers.
How to deploy a Java application on Code Capsules
Deploying Java applications on Code Capsules is a relatively simple process that starts with getting an account or logging in to an existing one. Then, you can create a ‘Space’ for your apps. In Code Capsules, Spaces are an organization tool to manage the apps.
Creating the ‘Space’ is simple since you follow prompts that ask for relevant details. Once the Space is created, you can link it to GitHub, from where you can obtain, install and authorize Code Capsules.
You can then add the Code Capsules repository from GitHub to Team, where multiple Spaces can be given access to the repository.
From here, you can create the Capsule for hosting the app on Code Capsules (see what we did there?) Code Capsules allows users to deploy applications in other languages and not just Java, with guides to take you through the process.
PaaS Providers and Branded Jargon
There are some unavoidable brands with well-known technologies and ideas that you won’t be able to avoid. They may sound like jargon, and sometimes, a company may come up with something that has no precedent and give it a name that works for them or brand it for differentiation so you can tell it apart from the competition.
Let’s look at some of the most prevalent jargon:
Kubernetes is an open-source system for container orchestration (automating, deployment, scaling, and management of containerized apps). It is used to group containers that constitute an application into logical units, so they’re easy to manage and find.
Dynos are associated with the Heroku platform that uses containerization to run and scale apps. The containers used at Heroku are called dynos. Once you deploy an app to Heroku, it packages the code and dependencies into containers (dynos).
Docker is another open-source containerization platform for building, deploying, and managing container apps. You can think of Docker as a toolkit that enables the developer to build, deploy, run, update, and generally manage containers using simple commands and automation from just one API.
OpenShift isn’t all too different from Docker. Where they differ is regarding what’s offered. OpenShift offers more than Docker by having not just the runtime container but coordination, web interfaces, and REST API to deploy and then manage each container. OpenShift refers to a family of containerization software, developed by Red Hat (a leading software company in the open-source space).
According to the official site, “OpenStack is a class of software components that provide common services for cloud infrastructure.” You can think of OpenShift as an open-source cloud computing infrastructure software project. It is one of the three most active open-source projects in the world.
What is PaaS?
PaaS denotes a platform from a provider who hosts the hardware and software on their infrastructure, which is then delivered to you as an integrated solution, service, or solution stack over the internet.
What are some costs associated with PaaS?
PaaS is priced using a pay-as-you-go model to ensure you only pay for what you use. There is no need to invest in anything extra unless required when getting a PaaS platform subscription. If you have already spent money on infrastructure, you can use a PaaS stack of your choice on top of it.
What are the benefits of Platform as a Service?
With PaaS, developers have the benefit of building, deploying, monitoring, upgrading, and maintaining their apps without ever having to think about anything other than building the apps. With technologies that make it easy to spot mistakes, make upgrades, and overhaul the entire app with ease.
What are some of the common PaaS features?
PaaS typically includes everything infrastructure-as-a-service provides, but with added middleware and services to make app building easy within the same integrated environment.
Whew! That took a minute.
Remember when we talked about how PaaS is the perfect way for anyone to build, deploy, maintain and upgrade an app? The journey has taken us from that to Dynos (rawr!)
Since all this was about taking the mystery out of PaaS, we’ve looked at the components of PaaS, its relations to relevant XaaS, the providers, its components, where it is most useful, and more. Suffice to say, PaaS isn't so mysterious anymore.
Its place in the cloud is clear - enabling developers to build, deploy, monitor, and update their apps quickly and without spending too much money.
Where did the container come into all this? Well, they make it easy to run apps in tiny bits (microservices) seamlessly, getting spun up and down as needed to keep cloud services going even during peak traffic times.
Speed, ease of deployment, lowered costs, collaboration over vast geographical distances, better experiences for your users, easy maintenance, the use of containers for cross-platform apps/software - all these and more constitute the checklist of a dream platform for any developer.