A practical guide to platform as a service: What is PaaS?

What is PaaSThe generic “PaaS” (platform as a service) label is used very broadly to refer to many cloud services, making it difficult for customers to accurately evaluate and compare offerings from different service providers.

To address this challenge, it’s helpful for customers to understand the range of capabilities that PaaS offerings provide. The ability to distinguish PaaS capabilities from IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and SaaS (software as a service) services is important. Inevitably, there are some fuzzy boundaries between these service models. Customers will need to successfully navigate the gray areas.

The basics

In a PaaS environment, a cloud service customer can develop, deploy, manage and run applications (created by the customer or acquired from a third party) using one or more execution environments supported by the cloud service provider. PaaS offerings are targeted primarily at application developers, though their capabilities can extend to operators.

One way of describing PaaS is that it represents a cloud service rendering of the application infrastructure (middleware): application servers, database management systems, business analytics services, mobile back-end services, integration brokers, business process management systems, rules engines and complex event processing systems. Such application infrastructure assists the developer in writing applications. This reduces the amount of code that must be written while expanding the application’s functional capabilities.

The essence of a PaaS system is that the cloud service provider takes responsibility for the installation, configuration and operation of the application infrastructure, leaving responsibility for only the application code itself to the cloud service customer.

PaaS offerings also often expand on the platform capabilities of middleware by offering application developers a diverse and growing set of services and APIs that provide specific functionality in a managed, continuously available fashion, enabling immediate productivity for developers.

PaaS also enables applications to take advantage of the native characteristics of cloud systems, often without the application developer having to add special code to the application itself. This provides a route to building “born-on-the-cloud” applications without requiring specialized skills.

Comparing the models

How does PaaS compare with SaaS and IaaS?

SaaS offers a fixed set of application capabilities while PaaS supports the creation and use of application code with whatever set of capabilities is required for the business. The need for specialized code is very general, and it’s telling that many SaaS offerings provide APIs specifically to applications built on a PaaS for tailoring, customization and extension.

IaaS provides fundamental infrastructure but leaves installation, configuration and operation of the necessary software stacks in the hands of the customer. IaaS offerings provide extensive control over resources that may be necessary for some applications at the cost of requiring considerable effort from the customer. PaaS offerings often organize the underlying resources, removing the responsibility and effort from the customer, but potentially limiting choices.

Some platform as a service offerings also blend in features of IaaS and SaaS cloud services to offer some control of basic resource allocation on the one hand, while providing complete off-the-shelf software capabilities on the other. This can cause some confusion, but the hallmark of a PaaS system is the ability for the cloud service customer to create and run applications and services that meet specific business needs.

A practical guide to platform as a service: PaaS benefits and characteristics!

PaaS BenefitsOne of the major benefits of platform as a service PaaS is its ability to improve a developer’s productivity. PaaS provides direct support for business agility by enabling rapid development with faster and more frequent delivery of functionality. It does this through continuous integration techniques and automatic application deployment. PaaS also enables developers to realize the cloud’s broader benefits.

This includes:

  • Scalability, including rapid allocation and deallocation of resources with a pay-as-you-use model (noting that the use of individual resources can vary greatly over the life cycle of an application)
  • Reduced capital expenditure
  • Reduced lead times with on-demand availability of resources
  • Self-service with reduced administration costs
  • Reduced skill requirements
  • Support of team collaboration
  • Ability to add new users quickly

The automation support one receives in a PaaS environment also provides productivity improvements and consistency in delivery. Along with automation is the ability for closer equivalence of the development, test and production environments, again improving consistency and reliability of delivery. This is one aspect of a DevOps/agile development approach that is ideal for a PaaS environment.

[Related post: A practical guide to platform as a service: What is PaaS?]

In addition, PaaS systems typically enable the sharing of resources across multiple development teams, avoiding the need for wasteful allocation of multiple assets of the same type in separate silos.

PaaS systems typically build in security and data-protection features, including resilience capabilities such as replication and backups. This can improve security and reduce the need for in-house security skills.

The provision of sophisticated, off-the-shelf capabilities as services enables the rapid creation and evolution of applications that address business requirements. This is especially important when considering mobile and web applications that include social and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities.

Business applications typically require integration and involve aggregation of data and services from multiple existing systems. PaaS systems usually feature prebuilt integration and aggregation components to speed and simplify necessary development work.

PaaS systems can be used to build applications that are then offered to other customers and users as a software as a service (SaaS) offering. The requirements of SaaS applications, including scalability and the ability to handle multiple tenants, can usually be met by the cloud computing capabilities of a PaaS system.

In our next installment, we’ll provide guidance for acquiring and using PaaS offerings.

Interested in learning more about PaaS and getting a better picture of its implementation best practices? Check out my post on PaaS basics and download the Cloud Standards Customer Council’s “Practical Guide to Platform as a Service.”

Enabling hybrid cloud apps and multi-speed IT

With the evolution of the cloud, startups seem to have it easy. They come up with an idea, implement it on the cloud, and deploy continuously right away.

For companies that have developed software for years, either for internal use or to sell, things are more complicated. Those companies invested in their applications and will use them as long as they provide needed function.

Consider the anonymized company “GroceryX.” For years, it had a rewards program. At first, the program ran in the company’s enterprise and gathered data from customers, including demographic data, buying habits, and purchase data. GroceryX used that data to send offers to the customers in the rewards program. Now, the company has a new idea. Through a mobile app, it will provide customers with tailored content that is based on the data from its corporate database. To make that idea a reality, GroceryX needs hybrid cloud.

Hybrid cloud and multi-speed IT

A hybrid cloud application is a complex enterprise application that spans both cloud-based systems of engagement and systems of record, such as mainframe-based transactional systems or traditional applications that are hosted on data centers.


To develop the mobile rewards program app, GroceryX forms a new team that acts like a startup and develops on the cloud. The company also picks the cloud platform where it will develop the mobile app and design an excellent mobile customer experience. One need still exists, though: The app must pull data from the traditional customer data application.

The customer data application team has existed for years, and it releases updates as new function is needed. That team and the new team deliver on different schedules, a concept known as multi-speed IT. Developing hybrid cloud applications requires tracking technical dependencies across multiple teams, developing robust APIs, and ensuring that teams work together toward a common goal.

By / August 24, 2016

IBM named a leader in Gartner Magic Quadrant for mobile application development platforms four years in a row

We are thrilled that for the fourth consecutive year, Gartner named IBM a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms. IBM is now a leader in seven Magic Quadrants related to mobile:

  • Enterprise Mobility Management Suites
  • Enterprise Content Management
  • Managed Mobility Services
  • Application Security Testing
  • Security Information and Event Management
  • Global Digital Marketing Agencies
  • Mobile Application Development Platforms

Leaders in the report must represent a strong combination of “Ability to Execute” and “Completeness of Vision.” According to Gartner, Inc., “In the MADP sector, this means that Leaders not only are good at cross-platform development, deployment and management across the full life cycle, but also have a good vision of the multichannel enterprise, support for multiple architectures and standards, a solid understanding of IT requirements, and scalable channels and partnerships.”

Mobile continues to be a top priority for enterprises around the world. According to initial findings from the IBM Institute for Business Value study, 77 percent of executives plan to do at least five mobile enterprise initiatives over the next year. As the primary entry point for digital transformation, mobile continues to drive enterprises to rethink how they create unique digital experiences for their customers and employees. IBM is proud to support more than 5,000 clients from around the world in every industry as they transform into mobile enterprises. We are inspired by the innovative solutions our clients are creating with IBM MobileFirst and powered by the cloud.

Here are just a few examples of how IBM MobileFirst is driving mobile development success:

  • ICICI Bank, India’s largest private sector bank, needed an innovative way to attract youth and first-time banking customers. ICICI Bank leveraged IBM MobileFirst to develop Pockets, a multi-platform app described as “India’s first digital bank for youth.” The app enables instant creation of a digital wallet with an attached payment card fundable from any bank account. Users can transfer funds to bank accounts as well as to email IDs, mobile numbers and social networks. They can pay bills, request money from family and friends, and open a full-service youth savings account at ICICI Bank. With IBM MobileFirst, ICICI Bank’s mobile customers receive instant access to useful services, while ICICI Bank gains an effective platform for supporting mobility and quickly developing new features and apps.
  • City Furniture, a Florida-based furniture retailer, leveraged IBM’s mobile services and Swift end-to-end to create a mobile solution in just six weeks to transform clearance merchandise from a cost-recovery to a profitable product segment. City Furniture’s new iPad app enables better pricing of merchandise, improves employee efficiency and productivity and is expected to have a potential impact of more than $1.5 million.
  • Security First Insurance, a leading Florida-based homeowners insurance company, improved customer engagement and provided differentiated service in a competitive business environment through the Security First Mobile App powered by IBM MobileFirst. Through an interactive Storm Center leveraging weather and location-based insights, Security First Insurance is putting critical, relevant storm information and preparedness tools in the hands of Floridians, while at the same time cultivating loyalty for its brand.

ICICI Bank, City Furniture and Security First Insurance are just three examples of how IBM MobileFirst drives digital transformation within the enterprise. We believe our leadership in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant reinforces our vision for driving mobile success in the cloud and cognitive era.

Download the full report here.


IBM announces container service for Bluemix

container technology
Credit: Thinkstock

The new IBM Containers service, based on the open source Docker software container technology, is designed to help developers deliver applications across hybrid cloud environments.

At DockerCon in San Francisco today, IBM announced IBM Containers, an enterprise-class containers based on Docker and built on Big Blue’s Bluemix platform-as-a-service (PaaS). The service, IBM says, is intended to help developers deliver applications across hybrid cloud environments.

IBM also announced that it has joined with a number of partners to create the Open Container Platform (OCP), a coalition intended to ensure that containers are interoperable, fostering the rapid growth of container-based solutions.

One cloud vision

“Our strategy around cloud is to make all of these clouds behave as one,” says Angel Diaz, vice president of Cloud Architecture & Technology at IBM. “No application, no solution is an island. Everything is connected.”

[ Related: IBM Bluemix powers hybrid cloud apps for IoT, analytics ]

Diaz notes that IBM is already a strong Docker supporter — it is number three in overall commits to the open source container technology. When it comes to containers, he says, delivering them via the cloud is not enough. Developers need containers with advanced capabilities that allow production applications to be easily deployed and managed.

IBM Containers is designed to support DevOps through the capability to build, automate and orchestrate the deployment of multi-platform, multi-container and traditional workloads together in application environments. Diaz notes that it can help move workloads across various cloud environments with enterprise-class management and security, regardless of the phase of the application or delivery pipeline — development, test, staging or production.

IBM Containers features include the following:

  • Integrated Tools. These tools include log analytics, performance monitoring and lifecycle management to simplify the delivery pipeline.
  • Elastic Scaling and Auto Recovery. These features provide resources when they are most needed.
  • Zero Downtime Deployments. This feature utilizes Active Deploy to ensure users aren’t affected by application enhancements.
  • Private Overlays, Load Balancing and Automated Routing. These features enable capabilities to address the most complex business requirements.
  • Support for Persistent Storage. This feature allows for data-centric application creation.
  • Automated Image Security and Vulnerability Scanning. The Vulnerability Advisor alerts you to security weaknesses before deployment.
  • Access to Bluemix Services. It provides access to IBM’s catalog of more than 100 cloud services, including Watson, Analytics, IoT and Mobile.

IBM has also integrated the on-premise Docker Trusted Registry software with its DevOps and Cloud offerings, including IBM UrbanCode and IBM Pure Application Systems.

[ Related: Review: IBM Bluemix Bulks Up Cloud Foundry ]

“For the first time now, our clients will be able to create containers on-premises, off-premise, automate the build of these containers and scale them,” Diaz says. “Monitoring and logging are supported.”

Containing vulnerable code

Diaz adds that one of the biggest challenges with containers currently is that they can contain vulnerable code. Since the whole idea is to allow developers to use containers to build micro-services that can then be strung together to rapidly build new services, it is essential to detect if something in a container hasn’t been patched or has known vulnerabilities before those containers come to serve as the foundation of all manner of services.

Not only does the Vulnerability Advisor help users detect vulnerable containers, Diaz says, IBM Containers also provides the ability to write policies around containers.

Late-stage startup Mindjet, known for its Spigit crowdsourcing platform, is an early adopter of IBM Containers. The Spigit team has been experiencing annual growth of more than 30 percent, leading to escalating operations costs and scaling limitations as a result of its existing infrastructure. The company says it turned to IBM Containers on Bluemix to help its development teams operate more efficiently, innovate with speed, improve engagement and boost productivity.

“While we started our application development on Heroku, it wasn’t long before the resulting operations costs started to overtax our team, limiting us in terms of development and pace capabilities,” Mindjet CTO James Gardner said in a statement. “The agile and open capabilities of IBM’s Bluemix, including the new Docker-based IBM Container services, helped us cut our deployment times to mere seconds and increase our freedom to do what every startup wants to do more of, focus on innovation for our clients.”

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Full Article – http://www.cio.com/article/2938555/it-industry/ibm-announces-container-service-for-bluemix.html

Application Developers realize your potential with IBM’s BlueMix

How IBM Plans To Help Reinvent The Modern Corporation

It’s no secret that big corporations aren’t what they used to be.  In recent years, we’ve seen industrial stalwarts such as General Motors, Kodak and Blockbuster go bankrupt even as upstarts like Tesla, Instagram and Netflix rocket forward.  The average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has fallen from more than 60 years to less than 20.

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