Confused about PaaS? Wikibon can help

Author: Paul Gillin

More than 1,500 developers, operators and managers are gathering in Santa Clara, CA this morning for the two-day Cloud Foundry Summit, highlighting the popularity of the new breed of development platforms that are specific to the cloud.

Pivotal Software, Inc.’s Cloud Foundry is just one of a diverse and growing lineup of so-called platform-as-a-service (PaaS) suites that have sprung forth from nearly every major software and infrastructure player in the cloud, and they present some clear-cut choices for customers.

But they also present some confusion about just what PaaS is and how it relates to the other as-a-service options that are proliferating in the market, particularly since some PaaS suites come integrated with infrastructure-as-a-service (Iaas). We asked Wikibon analysts to provide clarity.

What the heck is PaaS?

PaaS is essentially a development platform in the cloud. According to, “In a PaaS model, a cloud provider delivers hardware and software tools — usually those needed for application development — to its users as a service. A PaaS provider hosts the hardware and software on its own infrastructure. As a result, PaaS frees users from having to install in-house hardware and software to develop or run a new application.”

But PaaS is of value to more than just developers. The platform can also be used to integrate or add new functionality to existing applications. And you don’t need to be a programmer to get value. One of the appeals of ServiceNow, Inc.’s Service Automation Platform, in fact, is that it can be used by so-called “low-code and no-code developers” to automate tasks without a lot of programming.
“The core reason you’d need PaaS is to rapidly deploy your own apps, other apps, changes to apps and reduce the time to value,” said Wikibon co-founder David Floyer.

PaaS platforms have been an important driving force in the evolution of DevOps, a development technique in which code and revisions are quickly made live. Cloud service providers promise that applications developed with their tools will run in production just like they do in test, thereby avoiding the nasty surprises that often occur when code is moved from a development to a production environment.

Three types of PaaS

One of the things that confuses people about PaaS is that it sounds a little like public cloud, or infrastructure as a service (IaaS). In fact, the two are often intertwined and in some cases combined, as is the case with Pivotal Software, Inc.’s CloudFoundry. All of the major public cloud providers also have their own PaaS platforms. You can also get PaaS services from some of the big software as a service (SaaS) companies, like, Inc. and ServiceNow. Or you can opt for integrated PaaS/IaaS bundles. Wikibon defines three different types of PaaS cloud services. Let’s look at the trade-offs of each…

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