PaaS (platform as a service) programs are computing platforms that offer companies the tools they need for deployment, development and middleware functions. PaaS products offer a stable web-based platform that is entirely independent of on-site computing hardware, making the app creation process less complex and more affordable than it is on alternative platforms. This means you can save a great deal in software and app development efforts by taking advantages of these more budget-friendly online options.
A PaaS is an application platform that covers certain administrative details so you can focus on your customers and on developing your apps. This is why a PaaS is convenient for those who do not want to deal with more complex parts of the app development system, such as setting up servers, installing frameworks and configuring testing tools. Three of the top PaaS systems that help in these areas are Oracle Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.
PaaS Software Programs: What to Look For
With the right PaaS platform in place, you only need to worry about creating code for your next project, meaning it is fast and simple to push your new app to run on the PaaS. However, different companies have different needs for their platforms and different budget restrictions for adopting a new cloud-based platform. There are certain features and capabilities to keep in mind when shopping for one of these programs to ensure it meets your company's needs.
Flexibility & Scalability
Flexibility and scalability are two of the most important aspects to consider when it comes to buying a PaaS platform. Look for a polyglot program, or one that supports several programming languages and frameworks, allowing flexibility in your coding language.
These platforms also need to be flexible when it comes to hosting environments or be polyhost platforms. This means they can handle hosting environments such as public or private clouds, so you can move your application as needed to keep up with privacy issues, heightened demand or potential cloud outages. This type of flexibility also allows the PaaS platform to be more scalable and to grow with the demands of your company and your new application.
Consider your data storage needs when considering a new PaaS solution. Some basic PaaS platforms still only allow you to choose between relational databases or custom file-based storage databases. More advanced solutions not only offer these solutions, but also other NoSQL options and varying levels of data storage capabilities, to fit the needs of both large and small applications. Keep in mind that the amount of data storage will likely impact overall cost.
PaaS vendors should support developer tools and provide integration with commonly used applications such as programming platforms. The ability to integrate with programs like Visual Studio can help expedite the uploading and code-managing process. A PaaS that works with existing programming and code management tools not only makes the creation process quicker, but it can reduce the amount of errors. Consider integration capabilities with all types of applications, including database management tools and storage services, to ensure a seamless fit with your existing processes.
PaaS programs vary when it comes to these different features, just as they vary in price. However, when it comes to finding the right program, it is essential that it not only makes sense financially for your business, but that the program can support your company's development needs both today and over the long term.
At first glance, Amazon Web Services may seem more like an IaaS (infrastructure as a service), but this cloud computing system is actually a PaaS that offers additional infrastructure features.
Even though IaaS capabilities are available with AWS, the platform allows you to develop and deploy apps without having to run and maintain your own servers. One of the benefits of having Amazon's proficiency with IaaS behind this platform is that there is virtually no end to the different coding languages you can use or the applications and side technologies you can run on this platform, making it one of the more flexible options in the market today.
For database options, you can either create your own database on your own servers or allow Amazon to handle all of the administrative database tasks with the Relational Database Service, or Amazon RDS. Infrastructure features such as this allow you to customize your PaaS more than you could with some more traditional models. Standard PaaS features are still available as well, such as search capabilities with Amazon CloudSearch, workflow management features and available messaging queues.
Subscription and pricing plans for this platform vary, making it flexible for your budget or capacity needs. You can choose to pay hourly, monthly or fixed rates, subscribe by reserved or spot instances, or even start with a free plan option if you just want to take some time to determine how the program works. While this free trial plan doesn't give you most of the capabilities you need to actually run a program, it lets you test the waters with the platform first.
Amazon's comprehensive customer service expands to this platform. Your purchase includes training, additional educational materials, access to forums, and ongoing online and phone support that's available around the clock.
Amazon Web Services is a flexible PaaS that can handle both small and large projects. It offers dozens of add-ons and infrastructure services, but it also gives you the option of more flexible and affordable pricing plans to accommodate lower-end projects. Ultimately, it serves as a two-in-one platform: a PaaS with the option of more IaaS-type control.
AppFog was developed specifically to be a scalable app-hosting solution, and now this PaaS also has its own managed virtual server. The addition of this infrastructure solution makes AppFog a robust solution that allows you to focus on your application's code while AppFog takes care of server maintenance.
In addition to being scalable, this platform is flexible, no matter what type of web language you prefer. AppFog works with all types of coding languages, including Python, PHP and Node.js. The platform is also flexible when it comes to database solutions, as it works with database languages such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, NoSQL and MongoDB.
When it comes to the pricing model, this PaaS differs greatly from many of its competitors. Instead of charging you per instance or monthly, the platform bills you for usage on its virtual server. With your chosen package, you are charged according to how much of this space that you actually use. You can host as many processes or applications that you want to on the platform; you just are not allowed to go over your RAM capacity.
If you are planning on running a single app, this can be a way to break down pricing. However, if you are running multiple apps, even if they are all small, managing this pricing breakdown can be difficult, as the basic RAM needed to simply run multiple small applications at once really adds up.
In case you are particularly interested in third-party service integration, this cloud computing platform integrates with several different services, including a variety of email and eCommerce solutions. To help you with any issues you have getting started, AppFog has a number of resources available on its website, including tutorials, walkthroughs and an extensive FAQs section. However, if you are interested in live support, the company does charge for emails.
Overall, the AppFog PaaS solution is flexible with its language options, while taking care of its own virtual server. If its pricing breakdown works for you, then this app developer can be a cost-effective, scalable and flexible solution for your app-hosting needs.
Engine Yard Review
Engine Yard is a platform-as-a-service solution for app developers, with additional infrastructure-as-a-service features that make this program a versatile hybrid solution.
What also makes it a flexible platform is its ability to work with several different coding languages.
In addition to Ruby on Rails, Node.js and PHP, you can install and support virtually any other language that you want on Engine Yard. When this PaaS first came out, it was only hosted on Amazon's EC2 platform, but it now also offers cloud-hosting solutions, with the ability for you to host on Windows Azure.
This cloud computing PaaS also focuses on scalability features. It is designed to automatically scale with you as a user, adding new instances at every level. The platform also offers free monitoring, automatic backups and a handful of different third-party add-on options. To help you create an eCommerce solution, Magento integrates into the platform, while SendGrid also integrates easily in case you need email features.
Engine Yard offers a great deal of customization opportunities and makes data integration simple. The platform boasts standard PostgreSQL and MySQL database features. As a first-time user, you will also find that the company makes it simple to get started with the platform. In addition to user-friendly dashboards, online visual aids and detailed video tutorials, the platform comes with a free 500-hour trial.
While any type of consumer can easily get started with Engine Yard, the platform is best equipped for professional-grade users who need a lot of power, scalability and features, and for those who expect high traffic with their PaaS. The pricing for the platform breaks down into monthly options, with different tiers available, but the fully managed solution may be too costly for those who do not have high-traffic use in mind.
Engine Yard is an adaptable PaaS that you can use with several different coding languages and integrate with other platforms, and it also includes some IaaS features. You have to pay a bit more per month than you would with other platforms, because it gives you more control over the platform and is suited to large-scale production over long terms.
Google App Engine Review
Google App Engine is Google's platform-as-a-service solution. As one of the most mature offerings and with the Google name behind it, this PaaS has become one of the most used platforms for both small and large companies.
When Google developed this app builder, it included some of the same APIs that the company uses to create its own apps. There are also some infrastructure features available with Google App Engine, as you can tap into Google's infrastructure resources whenever you use its PaaS. This includes Google's fast network, technical database and content delivery network. This makes Google App Engine similar to an IaaS and PaaS hybrid, although it remains a platform as a service at its heart.
This is not the most flexible PaaS. While it supports several different languages – including Java, Python and Google's own Go language – it does not support as many options as competing platforms do. In case you do happen to use Python or Java for your web development needs, this cloud computing platform comes with a number of APIs, as well as additional services and tutorials. However, if you are not a normal Java or Python user or do not want to use Google's own language, then other platforms are going to be easier for you to use.
While some of GAE's services are designed for high-end professional users who expect a great deal of traffic, the company also offers less robust solutions. The cost model lets you determine what you want to use and only pay for features you plan on using. While Google does offer some customer support for through various resources and online libraries, it does not offer a lot in terms of live support unless you pay for the additional support package, which adds to the overall price.
The platform runs on Google's own infrastructure, while many other platforms in the market run on Amazon. The engine comes with advanced security features and boasts an impressive list of big-name companies that have used it.
Google App Engine is a high-functioning API for your app development if you prefer one of the three coding language options that Google offers. Whether you are planning on large-scale or small-scale app creation, you only pay for what you are going to use with this PaaS, making it a versatile option for your app creation plans.
Heroku's cloud hosting PaaS started as a Ruby-only application and has expanded into a multi-feature platform that supports virtually every web language. With this platform-as-a-service software, you can find features that support Java, PHP, Node.js, Python and other coding languages. The only language that the system does not support is ASP.net.
In addition to language options, Heroku offers flexibility in terms of its add-ons and third-party extensions. Several third-party features are designed to integrate seamlessly with this platform, particularly extensions that are notoriously difficult to integrate with existing code. This means you can add these features with a single click of a mouse.
The system is also completely scalable. You can start with a lower tier that has limited dynos and add more as you need them. You can even lower your amount of dynos if you need to.
When it comes to storage, it is important to remember that Heroku is actually a true cloud computing platform, meaning you will not be able to access additional local storage outside of your database. However, if you plan on storing photos within your app, you will need to employ an additional external storage service. This can be an issue for some developers, so if you know that you will be storing photos with your app, keep this extra step in mind.
Although Salesforce, the company that owns Heroku, offers a library of information and tutorials on the platform, it does not offer much in terms of live support, a common issue among PaaS systems. It's difficult to connect directly with the supplier to receive troubleshooting guidance and insight on platform errors.
Overall, Heroku is a powerful platform as a service, though it offers a cloud-only storage system. With a scalable and customizable dyno system that allows you to pay for only what you need, and one-click add-on features, this PaaS is both easy enough for hobbyists to use and powerful enough to handle large companies' apps. However, it does not offer many ways to receive technical support or customer service through its parent company, Salesforce.
IBM's Bluemix Review
IBM's Bluemix PaaS operates on a public cloud and features a solution based on the existing Cloud Foundry platform. With its intuitive interface, Bluemix allows you to create, manage and deploy all of your applications without any major coding knowledge.
This platform as a service is available on the IBM Cloud Marketplace and offers more than 50 different services designed to help you create apps for your large or small business. Bluemix also runs on IBM's SoftLayer infrastructure, meaning the system offers infrastructure-as-a-service features and the power of IBM's middleware.
At the heart of the Bluemix platform is a dashboard that makes it simple for you to create and manage your services and applications. The dashboard also lets you monitor your usage and your user access. This makes Bluemix a user-friendly solution for large corporations that need to manage multiple services, organizations, applications and users.
However, this interface makes using the platform simple enough for novice users as well. On this platform, you can take a mix-and-match approach to building an application, meaning you can pick and choose different features that you want to add in order to create your own custom application.
IBM has created a hybrid approach to its PaaS and also offers its clients several additional features. The company offers managed service for pulling data from outside APIs, and the system allows your company to pack your workload for movement onto the cloud.
While many PaaS companies struggle with customer service, Bluemix uses IBM's well-known customer support to offer 24/7 service. As a Bluemix user, you also have access to online forums and self-service resources.
For database storage options, you can choose between MySQL and PostgreSQL options. However, this PaaS only uses Java language. Some other platforms are flexible in the coding language you can use with them.
As long as you are comfortable with Java, IBM Bluemix can provide you with development solutions for your custom applications, whether you are planning on creating a small app or a larger program. This cloud computing PaaS makes application development simple and straightforward, and it's backed by a trusted name that offers 24/7 customer support.
Microsoft Azure, formerly known as Windows Azure, offers high-level, comprehensive PaaS services for app developers. It not only features standard PaaS features but also integrated IaaS (infrastructure as a service) functionality, Linux servers, development frameworks and a Windows operating system.
Although Microsoft recently added some IaaS features to the platform, it is still a PaaS at its heart. It focuses on offering a flexible platform that has software development kits (SDKs) that seamlessly integrate with Visual Studio. If you already have this system for developing and deploying applications, Microsoft Azure allows you to continue using it along with your PaaS.
The system is flexible, and therefore scalable for uses. The optional SDKs allow you to use several coding languages such as Java, .Net, Node.js, PHP, Python and Ruby, so you can code in the language you are most comfortable with.
Microsoft also offers several data storage options solutions for its customers, allowing you to choose between BLOBs, SQL databases and tables. BLOBs and tables with this PaaS can store up to 200TB of data, while you have two different replica options for even higher-capacity storage with the available SQL database options.
Pricing options for this cloud computing system vary, depending on your company's needs. It offers more flexibility than other platforms and breaks down pricing depending on the size of instances needed to run your application. These five categories are broken down into extra small, small, medium, large and extra-large.
Like many of its competitors, Microsoft's PaaS has add-on services for you to use if you have a larger-scale project in mind. This includes options to handle messaging capabilities, business analytics, content delivery network, media services and identity management features. Microsoft not only carries a well-respected name, but it backs up its cloud platform service with an ongoing customer service initiative that includes online forums, live chat and expert phone support.
Microsoft Azure offers a highly flexible PaaS solution as well as some infrastructure capabilities, such as virtual machines and object storage capabilities. Although you may not need infrastructure services, they give you a comprehensive system behind your upcoming project.
Oracle's PaaS, the Oracle Cloud Platform, helps application and software developers both large and small to enjoy a shared and scalable platform. This platform is designed to both help consolidate existing apps and to develop and deploy new apps using database functionality, middleware technology and specialty engineered systems.
This multifaceted system is equipped to handle cloud app development and deployment, as well as cloud management and integration. Unlike some others in its class, Oracle's platform has both private and public cloud deployment models. This helps your company not only create and deploy your own apps, but extend your existing Oracle Cloud SaaS (software as a service) apps.
Using the company's Oracle Database and Oracle Exadata Database Machine, this PaaS can provide maximum data storage and database functionality. Oracle's PaaS program also comes with built-in security capabilities, in case you have strict privacy or regulatory guidelines to comply with.
The Oracle Cloud Platform emphasizes app integration, as Oracle boasts a partner community of more than 20,000 different entities, including more than 1,000 specialized partners. This makes the Oracle Cloud Platform a versatile solution for those in a variety of industries.
Pricing for this PaaS solution is broken down on a monthly basis, but its introductory monthly plans are quite affordable, beginning at just $100 a month. In case you need ongoing support when using this PaaS, Oracle offers live chat, phone support and access to its online forums, which can help you troubleshoot many common platform issues.
Oracle has a longstanding reputation within the software industry, with a long track record of work within the cloud computing industry. The company makes several cloud computing solutions that are compatible with its PaaS, which is valuable if you want to use other cloud platforms, software and hardware products in your development efforts.
The Oracle Cloud Platform offers high-capacity data storage and application integration, including with the other Oracle platforms. However, the Oracle service breaks its pricing down into a monthly fee, meaning if you are only planning on occasional use, then this platform may be too robust for your casual development needs.
Red Hat OpenShift Review
Red Hat Inc.'s OpenShift PaaS features a scalable platform designed to grow with any given application. It also has a great deal of flexibility in terms of coding languages and database solutions.
There are two different OpenShift options available: OpenShift Online and OpenShift Enterprise, with OpenShift Online being the more commonly used of the solutions; OpenShift Enterprise runs with the company's data center. The scalability of this program makes it suited for both general hobbyists and professional companies.
OpenShift is flexible when it comes to web languages, and you can use it with a number of major online solutions. This includes PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, Node.js and Perl. Within each of these languages, you can also choose between different frameworks and side technologies, meaning the options are virtually endless, so you can mold the software to your specific company or project's needs. When it comes to database languages, you also have an array of options, including MongoDB and different SQL languages.
As with many PaaS solutions, pricing is broken down with the instance or dyno model. This also impacts the way in which your coding language works and how much control you have over your application. Overall, this makes OpenShift very customizable, which is important if you are planning on including certain specialized tasks within your app.
This app developer PaaS is not that focused on customer service. While it does have several tutorials, walkthroughs and forums available, they do not offer much in terms of live customer support. This may be a concern if you like to interact directly with your PaaS provider when learning the ropes of your new platform.
The pricing model offers a hybrid solution that mixes a monthly fee and additional per-use costs for gears you use beyond the limitations in your monthly plan. Gears are abstract structures that contain cartridges, or high-level services like databases, logging tools and web servers.
While the setup and structure of Red Hat's OpenShift is different from other PaaS solutions, it offers a great deal in terms of features and flexibility. This is a cloud computing platform that can grow with your company and offers flexible language options.
Salesforce Platform Review
The Salesforce Platform is a PaaS for web developers along with a pre-existing software service that allows straightforward mobile and desktop app creation. The platform started as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, before Salesforce made its service more flexible for mobile developers and independent software companies. When the company switched to a PaaS, it kept some of its original software features to create a comprehensive platform.
In addition to its PaaS platform, which runs off of Force.com, the company integrates its own CRM application, which is the primary SaaS feature it still offers. When you use the company's platform, you can start using its prebuilt development application right away. This makes the platform an all-in-one option if you need a tool for actual app development in addition to a PaaS.
Salesforce's own app builder is not only ready for instant use, but the company offers free demos and trial periods if you want to explore its features before getting started. Applications you build on this platform are both mobile- and desktop-friendly.
The PaaS component of Salesforce still offers a cloud computing platform for app development. It supports all modern coding languages and also comes with visual tools that allow you to develop your apps without writing code. The visual tools, with their drag-and-drop capabilities, make this interface simple for novice users to handle than coding-only PaaS solutions, although this tool does not have the same customization options that traditional programming does.
While any type of user can use this PaaS, the platform is best equipped for existing Salesforce users. The platform is included in all Salesforce editions, it operates in a similar manner to Salesforce, and it provides you full access to all of your Salesforce data. Although it is designed to work with Salesforce, it also integrates with APIs, REST and point-and-click tools, making it an option for those who don't necessarily need full Salesforce integration.
The pricing breakdown has different tiers, based on your company size and intended use. All of the plans come at a monthly rate, suiting it most to those who plan on using the platform often and do not want to worry about budgeting for per-consumption use.
The Salesforce Platform is mostly tailored to those who are already Salesforce users and are looking for a PaaS solution that can integrate with their existing Salesforce data. While it is not as flexible as other platforms, the addition of a SaaS component with the app creator makes it a simple solution for novice users to consider.