The developer is the new king. Jim Deters, founder of the education company Galvanize probably has the best explanation for this: “Two guys in a Starbucks can have access to the same computing power as a Fortune 500 company”.
‘Platform as a Service’ (PaaS), i.e., a cloud computing model makes a big difference to the developers, who only need to bring their code and data. The PaaS provider handles the rest. The promise of PaaS reflects in the projected growth of this market. From US $ 0.7 billion in 2012, the PaaS revenue is expected to grow to US $ 47.8 billion in 2026, as this Statista report shows.
If you are a developer trying to build that next viral app but don’t have access to large computing infrastructure, you are likely exploring PaaS providers. In this article, I will compare the 10 top PaaS providers for 2019.
What is cloud computing?
Before we delve into PaaS, let’s briefly understand what cloud computing is, for PaaS is a variant of cloud computing. Cloud computing is delivering computing services over the Internet.
These computing services may include infrastructure, networking, storage, databases, software, analytics, and easy tools to integrate with 3rd party services. Read “What is cloud computing?” for more information.
Before the advent of cloud computing, a business would painstakingly build their IT shop. They would invest in all of the above. That meant a high entry barrier to the world of enterprise computing. With cloud computing, entrepreneurs can now consume cloud computing services from cloud providers.
They don’t need to make an upfront investment in IT infrastructure. They can pay for the services they consume, moreover, they can pay more if their business grows and they need computing resources at a larger scale.
The different cloud computing models vary based on what they offer. At one and of the spectrum, entrepreneurs might want only infrastructure, networking, server, storage, etc. This is ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ (IaaS).
At the other end of the spectrum, entire functional software products could be delivered over the Internet, and the consumer needn’t even install anything. This is ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS). Read more about these models in “SaaS, PaaS, And IaaS: understanding the three cloud computing service models”.
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In addition to different cloud computing delivery models, for e.g., IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, there are also different kinds of cloud computing. These are ‘public cloud’, ‘private cloud’, and ‘hybrid cloud’.
A public cloud is where the cloud service provider makes computing resources available over the Internet. It’s available to the general public. Read more about it in “public cloud”.
Businesses may prefer to have the computing resources over private infrastructure. There are various reasons due to which they might prefer this over a public cloud, for e.g., regulatory requirements. This is called ‘private cloud’, and you can read more about it in “Private cloud”.
‘Hybrid cloud’ is a combination of public and private cloud. Data and applications are shared between the public and private cloud components. Any spike in the application and data demand can be intelligently handled here since businesses can seamlessly transfer the load from their on-premises infrastructure to the public cloud.
Typically, businesses keep their sensitive data on the private cloud, whereas they let the public cloud handle their other data. Read “What is a hybrid cloud?” to know more about hybrid cloud.
What is PaaS?
In the cloud computing model continuum, PaaS is right between IaaS and SaaS. With PaaS, a cloud provider offers infrastructure, servers, networking, storage, database, middleware, operating system (OS), security, runtime environment, infrastructure monitoring, analytics, and an ability to integrate with 3rd party services.
Programmers bring in their code and application data. Note that PaaS by no means makes coding redundant! It’s not a drag-and-drop app builder. Rather, a PaaS provider enables coders to concentrate on what they do best, i.e., coding! The result is significantly faster application development.
Developers also need to provide their application-specific data, however, the PaaS provider addresses everything else. Read more about PaaS in “What is PaaS? Software development in the cloud”. You can develop, run, and manage your apps over PaaS.
PaaS can be delivered over public, private, and hybrid cloud environments. This enables businesses to develop their sensitive applications with data privacy requirements over a public cloud, whereas they can house their sensitive apps on-premises. PaaS providers often include key open-source technologies, which make their offerings even more popular with developers and entrepreneurs.
Top ‘Platform as a Service’ providers
I will now compare top PaaS providers. This platform comparison takes into account several factors, for e.g., the overall cloud capabilities of PaaS vendors, user-friendliness of the platform, flexibility, robustness, documentation, etc.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Beanstalk
AWS Elastic Beanstalk is certainly one of the top PaaS providers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone since AWS has one of the best cloud capabilities in the market. Read “Top cloud computing vendors” to know more about the pole position AWS has earned.
You can use AWS Elastic Beanstalk to deploy and run web apps developed using a variety of languages. Java, .Net, PHP, Ruby, Node.js, and Python are just some examples. Upload your code using the easy-to-use tools, and AWS Elastic Beanstalk handles everything else. That includes deployment, provisioning, load-balancing, and auto-scaling.
The excellent deep integration with AWS cloud environment offers you with many more advantages. Take, for example, your database. You will only need to consume an AWS cloud database service. It’s really easy to integrate a database with your web app, read more in “Adding a database to your Elastic Beanstalk environment”.
Another great example is how easily you can use their DevOps services. Once again, it’s just as simple as consuming a service, and the AWS DevOps toolset is ready to automate your testing, build management, and deployment. Read about it in “Set up a continuous deployment pipeline”.
There is no separate charge for AWS Elastic Beanstalk, therefore, you can use your AWS account. AWS provides excellent documentation. Their tutorials are very comprehensive, for e.g., if you need to learn how to integrate 3rd party ‘Application Programming Interfaces’ (APIs), their tutorials will be very helpful.
Oracle Cloud Platform (OCP)
A key player in the IT landscape even before the advent of cloud computing, Oracle is also a significant player in the PaaS market. Oracle Cloud Platform (OCP) combines both open source and Oracle proprietary technologies.
You can develop apps, manage builds, deploy, run, and manage operations easily on OCP. The platform has important self-repairing capabilities, built with machine learning and AI. High-quality data encryption, an ability to integrate all your applications seamlessly, and a one-stop shop to manage your entire application portfolio make OCP a robust PaaS.
Programmers using this platform can use the Oracle autonomous transaction processing database and the Oracle autonomous data warehouse. Oracle claims to offer a very large portfolio of services from a wide range of cloud vendors through their PaaS. In addition to a trial period, Oracle offers ‘Pay as you go’ and ‘Monthly flex’ pricing plans.
Google App Engine
Google App Engine is Googles’ PaaS. It’s integrated with Google Cloud Platform, which uses the same infrastructure as the Google search engine. That should put to rest all your apprehensions about the robustness of the underlying infrastructure!
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With Google App Engine, you develop, deploy, and manage your applications on a fully managed cloud platform. Programmers needn’t worry about infrastructure provisioning or configuration, moreover, they can also let Google App Engine handle the scaling. Developers can focus on what they love the most, i.e., coding.
The platform supports all popular languages like Java, Python, PHP, Ruby, Node.js, .Net, etc. Googles’ PaaS offers high-quality security solutions including firewall capabilities, ‘Identity and Access Management’ (IAM), and fully-managed SSL/TLS certificates.
Google Cloud SDK, cloud deployment manager, Visual Studio as IDE are just some of the Google cloud developer tools you can use. There is a comprehensive suite of documentation. You can pay based on the computing resources you consume.
Some cloud providers offer their IaaS and PaaS components together, where customers can make a choice suited to their requirement. Microsoft Azure follows this approach. Their PaaS is offered on the same robust infrastructure as the Azure IaaS and SaaS offerings.
Microsoft Azure has highly reputed cloud capabilities, as several reports confirm. Read “Top cloud providers 2018: how AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Oracle, Alibaba stack up” if you need confirmation.
Their PaaS offering includes all the standard features, for e.g., infrastructure, servers, storage, networking, security solutions, middleware, OS, databases, runtime environments, analytics, and development tools.
A free trial period, ‘pay as you go’, a price estimation tool and detailed pricing of all services on their website make it easy for one to make decisions. There is excellent documentation available for this fully-managed cloud PaaS.
Salesforce ‘application Platform as a Service’ (aPaaS) continues to enjoy a high reputation, and market-watchers reaffirm their positive views about it. Salesforce aPaaS offers all standard PaaS features. This includes infrastructure, servers, storage, networking, security, middleware, OS, runtime environments, development tools, databases, and an ability to easily integrate 3rd party APIs.
Salesforce aPaaS uses Heroku for deploying, running, and managing apps. Their ‘Lightning Design’ system offers guides and sample codes for developers, who can then get started with the app development quickly.
Salesforce acknowledges that programmers may have a learning curve to get started with their PaaS. It’s noticeable that developers continue to rate the platform highly despite the perceived learning curve. There is a free trial, moreover, a wide range of pricing options are available.
Red Hat OpenShift PaaS
Red Hat OpenShift PaaS takes the advantage of the reliability and security that Red Hat Enterprise Linux offers. It combines that with the OpenStack IaaS. On top of that, you can build your apps with Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform (EAP). This should allow you to focus on your code without unnecessary diversion of infrastructure and runtime environment-related concerns!
This platform offers an open and extensible architecture. Scaling, efficiency, and security are in safe hands! Developers can choose their preferred languages, and OpenShift PaaS will offer a suitable runtime environment. Programmers can expedite their app development with services like databases, frameworks, and an ability to swiftly integrate 3rd party APIs.
Mendix ‘application Platform as a Service’ (aPaaS) offers a wide range of application development services. It’s a cloud app development platform with a comprehensive suite of integrated tools. The platform allows the visual modeling of applications. Developers can create data models, moreover, they can model their UI and business logic.
The platform aids in ‘Agile’ development, with tools especially suited to collaborative development. Their tools work well in a team environment, furthermore, developers can build in feedback management.
Mendix aPaaS allows integration with a host of 3rd party APIs covering IoT, machine learning, cognitive services, and analytics. Like other reputed PaaS providers, they provide comprehensive documentation that aids this integration.
The platform also includes a comprehensive suite of DevOps tools, covering deployment, backup, monitoring, alerts, and log management. Cloud Foundry and Docker (container)/Kubernetes deployment are other factors that help developers.
IBM Cloud Platform
IBMs’ PaaS offering was known as ‘IBM Bluemix’ earlier, however, IBM now offers it as the overall IBM Cloud Platform. This is a combination of IBMs’ IaaS and PaaS. IBM continues to enjoy a high reputation as a managed cloud service provider, as you can see in “The Top 5 Cloud-Computing Vendors: #1 Microsoft, #2 Amazon, #3 IBM, #4 Salesforce, #5 SAP”.
IBM Cloud Platform offers you a range of choices for running your app, for e.g.:
- As a Cloud Foundry app;
- As a Docker container on a Kubernetes cluster;
- As VMware;
- As a virtual machine.
This platform offers all standard features of a PaaS, however, a key differentiator is their wide array of services. At the time of writing this, IBM Cloud Platform offers over 190 services in their services catalog. IBM also makes it easy to connect your app to other services, for e.g., IBM Watson services.
SAP Cloud Platform
Like Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM, another leader from the traditional IT landscape is also increasingly bullish on cloud computing, and that’s SAP. Their SAP Cloud Platform is an open PaaS. In addition to offering all standard PaaS features, the SAP PaaS also offers microservices. This helps in building mobile-enabled cloud applications.
The platform offers a wide range of services like analytics, machine learning, orchestration, integration with 3rd party APIs, IoT, DevOps, etc. An added advantage is easy API integration with SAP proprietary modules like SAP HANA, SuccessFactors, etc.
Engine Yard Cloud PaaS uses AWS as IaaS. They have a decade worth of experience in providing a managed PaaS, however, they focus only on ‘Ruby on Rails’. Except for this limitation in language support, Engine Yard is highly experienced.
They also provide the entire gamut of PaaS features, for e.g., networking, infrastructure, collaboration tools, environment control, security, automated deployment, scaling, databases, microservices, and containers. Check their pricing plans here.
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