paasThere’s  SaaS. You know—software as a service. There’ s IaaS, which is infrastructure as a service. And did you know, there’s also PaaS, a.k.a. platform as a service? It was unfamiliar to me up until about a month ago, when I was asked to talk to a university professor about how PaaS is changing the software development landscape.
PaaS is a Web-based development and runtime platform for managing the creation, deployment and hosting of cloud-based solutions or services. According to Wikipedia, PaaS offerings are aimed at speeding the development and deployment of applications (including design, testing, management and more) without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software and provisioning hosting capabilities. All of the necessary facilities required to support the complete life cycle of building and delivering web applications and services come from the Internet, Wikipedia says.

Several major players offer solutions. Microsoft’s Azure Services Platform is designed to enable applications to be hosted and run at Microsoft data centers.  Salesforce’s Force.com provides tools required for creating and hosting database-intensive business applications. Google has its own PaaS-based application development and hosting platform, Google App Engine. And not to be left out, IBM has Blue Cloud, a cloud environment for developers to create and test applications. There are even startups, like WaveMaker.
Like other cloud computing models such as SaaS and IaaS, PaaS offers enterprises access to shared, scalable IT resources on demand. And like the other cloud computing models PaaS is still at an early stage. Each of the offerings tend to center around one development language or methodology, which could be good as it means developers can more easily and quickly become experts in the platform they’ve chosen to work with. On the other hand, the trade-off is fewer choices and at some point, the developer may hit a snag in the platform he or she has chosen.

Regardless, these terms (and the meanings behind them) are all components of this greater beast known as cloud computing. But geez, it gets confusing! And the acronyms are starting to run into each other. I mean, you can’t very well have SaaS without IaaS, most likely delivered with PaaS (say that five times FaaS, er, fast, and it starts to sound a bit bawdy).

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