Demystifying PaaS

In a world where everything is “as a service”, IaaS (infrastructure), SaaS (software) what does the P in PaaS really mean?

Platform as a Service or PaaS is probably the biggest revolution in cloud transformation in the last five years. It’s also the least well understood.

In a world where everything is “as a service”, IaaS (infrastructure), SaaS (software) what does the P in PaaS really mean?

Most IT decision makers understand what a database is and how its usage and complexity has had to scale over time, both with the evolution of technology and with the growth of business operations. Let’s use the humble database then, as our introduction to PaaS-ification.

The database example

It’s the 1990’s and we are in the pre-cloud era. You have procured a bare metal server, or perhaps a VM. You have access to the machine and a pile of contracts that lock you into various service levels for years to come. You install a database server and start using it to run your stock control.

Security threats means you have to patch the OS regularly. Updates to the database software mean you have to install updates regularly. You need to make regular backups. Maintaining this system is becoming a full-time job. On top of this, the business is growing. First your disk space starts to run out. Your CPU then starts to struggle with the increasing load on the system. You go back to the service provider to re-negotiate and up-spec but there is a heavy cost associated with this.

Then there is down time and re-configuration. It takes weeks or even months to get the upgrade done. You need to procure even more kit and train even more people to make this happen efficiently.

It’s now 2010 and your cutting-edge business has migrated its database servers and related applications to the cloud. You have employed a ‘lift and shift’ strategy where you have taken your ‘on prem’ systems and migrated them into VMs in the public cloud. This move means it’s much easier to upgrade your infrastructure, you are no longer locked into complex contracts and you can move a little further, a little faster.

However, some things are still the same. You are still having to constantly re-build VMs and consider memory and disk space usage. You still have to employ a handful of system administrators to ensure the system is regularly patched and kept up to date. Figuring out how to replicate/share data efficiently across different territories is still hard. Backup and security are becoming a significant headache and the performance demands are increasing exponentially. You are having to make constant tweaks to the infrastructure.

Fast forward to today

It’s now 2020 and you have just completed a migration of the database servers. You have adopted something called Platform as a Service. In particular, you have employed one specific service out of hundreds of ‘platform services' to handle just your database needs. This particular service is called Azure SQL Database Service.

This has been a bit of a revelation. There are no VM’s to maintain. There are no hard limits on disk space and compute. You only get charged for what you use and the whole things scales elastically and automatically with the needs of your business. There are no software updates to manage. There is nothing to patch. You don’t even know what the underlying operating system is any more and you don't need to care.

Backup is automatic and built into the service. There is a 99.99% uptime guarantee and 1-hour SLA. You can replicate and scale the database into different geographical regions at the click of a button. Large efficiencies in terms of ongoing operation and maintenance mean you have massively reduced your overall cost while simultaneously increasing scalability, capacity and resilience.

The P in Platform as a Service

Your entire database operation has been simplified by making use of someone else's platform. And this particular platform has been built to make your life as painless as possible by abstracting and automating away everything that isn’t absolutely core to the storing, serving and querying of structured data.

This is the P in Platform as a Service.

It is a completely different approach to architecting, building and scaling complex cloud-first applications that:

  • Drastically reduces the time to market for new applications
  • Significantly reduces the effort required to maintain applications and infrastructure
  • Reduces the time to scale up and scale out your operations to near zero
  • Makes the very latest innovations in technology, data and AI available for immediate adoption.
  • Reduces friction to change by making use of highly flexible, loosely coupled, software and infrastructure services.

To find out more about how PaaS can accelerate your digital transformation, download our free eBook, the CIO’s Guide to PaaS now.

by Kevin Smith from Dootrix

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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