Cloud Service Models: What is PaaS (Platform as a Service)?

Cloud computing trainingCloud computing has become a widely adopted model for IT infrastructure environments. It includes three basic service models: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). IaaS was described in a previous post. This blog focuses on PaaS, and a future post will highlight SaaS.

IDC has indicated the cloud services market has entered an “innovation stage”. In addition, Gartner has predicted that “PaaS will have an extensive part to play from 2014 and by 2016 every organization will be running part of their software on either public or private PaaS”. So what is PaaS?

What is PaaS?

PaaS facilitates software application development over the Internet. PaaS services are typically accessed via a web browser using an application programming interface (API). Access to the IT infrastructure, operating system, middleware, tools, programming languages, maintenance and operations is enabled by the cloud provider. The cloud consumer is therefore free to focus on the design, development, testing and deployment of the application. Additional services, such as collaboration, are also available from the cloud provider.

PaaS consumers have the advantage of focusing on software development and not the underlying infrastructure and its associated operations. This includes purchasing, installing, configuring, etc., the servers, storage, networking and other infrastructure capabilities. This also includes providing several options for the operating system, programming languages and tools. These foundational components are provided by the PaaS provider. Such consumer advantages enable them to embrace agile development with reduced distractions.

One of the disadvantages of PaaS is vendor lock-in. If the vender changes some of its offerings (e.g., operating system) or roadmap, its systems crash or it or goes out of business, then the consumer is exposed. Security is also a concern for PaaS consumers. With a public PaaS model, a consumer’s data may be outside its environment. To address this issue, it is recommended that only non-sensitive data is housed in external environments. In addition, PaaS consumers should ensure that good security practices are in place by their PaaS vendor, and they audit the provider on a regular basis.

PaaS vendors typically offer services on a per-use basis or a monthly fee. For example, Amazon Web Services is one of the most popular PaaS providers today. There is no added cost for using their Elastic Beanstalk PaaS; as their customers would only pay for using that underlying infrastructure services; Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) or Elastic Block Store (EBS). Alternatively, IBM BlueMix offers three service options: 1) pay as you go; 2) pay as you go plus extended support; and 3) a subscription service. These options are detailed here.

Top PaaS Providers

There are many PaaS vendors that provide a diverse range of services. Listed below are some of the top PaaS providers. The PaaS industry is in its infancy, so this list will evolve over time.


AWS Elastic Beanstalk Heroku

Windows Azure

IBM Bluemix

Red Hat OpenShift

Google App Engine

Engine Yard

Cloud Foundry

Orange Scape

HP Cloud Applications

Oracle Cloud Solutions


An IDC report has forecast public PaaS sales of $8.1B in 2014, moving to $20.3B in 2018. Many developers are leveraging PaaS as part of their agile efforts. As a result, PaaS is the fasting growing cloud service model. For advice on selecting a PaaS vendor please see this report.

To learn more, visit Learning Tree’s complete curriculum of Cloud Computing courses including 3 new 1-day online courses.

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