Looking into the future of PaaS

Why platform as a service is such a great model

© Shutterstock / Golden Sikorka

By now, we have all become used to Software as a Service (SaaS), but for many, the idea of platform as a service is still fairly new. PaaS offers enterprise-ready infrastructure, systems, and tools and is the logical next step of SaaS. What can we expect from the future of platform as a service? For one, the requirements to use PaaS has only gotten cheaper and easier.

Platform as a service (PaaS) involves providing an instantly-deployable set of cloud computing services that can scale to meet the user’s needs and is typically priced by resource use. Though such services have been around for some time, their regular practicality has steadily trended up over the years as systems have been updated and the fundamental requirement to use them — fast and stable internet access — has become cheaper and easier.

There are currently two suites dominating the cloud computing field (AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Microsoft Azure), and they’re changing how the business world approaches digital activity in general. It’s clear that there’s a huge long-term market for this type of system — Microsoft and Amazon, two giants of the business world, wouldn’t have made such commitments to theirs otherwise.

So what is it about the platform as a service (PaaS) model that makes it so compelling? How is it changing how business is done, and what might the future hold? Let’s discuss.

What PaaS involves

What we’ve seen over the last decade is the steady online migration of local tasks, ultimately constituting the biggest portent of the still-nascent PaaS industry: SaaS (software as a service). We first saw the advent of internet-supported suites such as Adobe’s Creative Cloud, and everyone got used to that (by now, it’s fair to say that Creative Cloud has some serious clout) — then came the advent of software solutions accessible only through online portals, with Salesforce being one of the earliest success stories.

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People jumped on SaaS because it skirts the need to invest heavily in expensive hardware such as server equipment, as well as the awkward setup phase of getting software up and running across different devices. Provided you can reach a business-level internet connection, you can use SaaS — the pricing keeps going down alongside bandwidth costs, and since the location doesn’t matter, you can work from anywhere without needing an office.

PaaS takes this concept to its logical zenith. Instead of simply offering software that can be accessed through the internet, it offers enterprise-ready infrastructure plus all the systems you need to put it to good use: tools for development, design, testing, CRM, CRO, and essentially anything on the market the provider has created (or licenced).

How PaaS brings simplicity and efficiency to business

No matter what you want to achieve as a business with a keen eye on the digital world, you can drive it through a PaaS solution with no need to plan ahead, go through cumbersome setup procedures, or painstakingly pick out integration-capable tools. The tools and options offered through a PaaS system are guaranteed to work together.

The advantages don’t stop there. Think about how costly it can be to acquire licences for high-level software suites, particularly if you’re a small business. Because PaaS companies work in bulk, tying tools together and making them available to many clients, it typically works out as significantly cheaper to use a PaaS service. What’s more, since PaaS pricing is determined by resource use, you don’t lose out if you don’t use it for a while.

There are some reasons why people dislike PaaS services, of course: they’re wary about cloud-based services because they want full control over their data, or they don’t have sufficiently-stable internet connections, or they fear getting invested in a system only to see the pricing increase exponentially and leave them in a tough spot (replatforming is tough enough in the SaaS-driven ecommerce world, so imagine attempting the same thing for an industry-spanning enterprise company).

On the whole, though, there’s every reason to be positive — if you can get good internet access, the other fears are unfounded. The implementation of GDPR has changed how data security is viewed, and as long as viable PaaS alternatives keep appearing, we’ll avoid a duopoly.

The role of Azure in Microsoft’s business model

Where Amazon yields all of its cloud computing revenue from AWS, Microsoft has Office 365 and Dynamics alongside Azure, and together they recently achieved an annual revenue of $9.6 billion (as announced in the latest quarterly earnings). This is a significant portion of Microsoft’s bottom line, and it stands to keep getting bigger.

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This makes a lot of sense when you think about Microsoft’s identity today. While it doesn’t really get to compete at the high end as far as consumer products go (the Surface line has never threatened Apple’s Macbooks and iPads, for example), it maintains a stranglehold on business operating systems that makes it a compelling choice in the PaaS world. The more it can offer online, the more people will be inclined to invest in the Microsoft ecosystem — if you’re going to migrate everything to Azure, you might as well go all-in on the company.

What can we expect in the future?

For users, we should see the convenience of IT resources continue to rise as the PaaS model becomes further entrenched in everyday business. Just as SaaS seemed novel one minute and near-mandatory the next, expectations will soon have adjusted to the extent that using on-site platforms will seem antiquated and cumbersome.

For PaaS in general, the best thing for the digital landscape will be an influx of competitors to give people realistic alternatives to Azure and Amazon’s AWS. Narrowed options lead to stagnation and profiteering, after all. 10 years from now, every business should have a wide range of PaaS options from which it can select an ecosystem that perfectly suits its needs.



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