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What you need to know about PaaS

Most businesses are familiar with cloud computing. With its “on-demand pay-as-you-go” model, the cloud delivers agility, scalability, drives down costs and offers the convenience of anywhere access. However, there is a compelling case for organisations to venture further, utilising “Platform as a Service” (PaaS) to further accelerate innovation.
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According to analyst firm IDC, the worldwide PaaS market is estimated to be $14bn+ in 2017 (from $8.3bn last year) as organisations look to speed up software application development and reduce IT infrastructure costs.

PaaS accelerates the development and deployment of a variety of applications, whether web-based or mobile, B2B or B2C. Some sectors where such applications are used include Software as a Service (SaaS), online retail/e-commerce, loyalty/rewards programmes (hotel, airline), recruitment/HR, travel reservations/bookings and more. Examples of applications include Service-Flow, a B2B SaaS app; Groupe Adeo, an enterprise app for online retail/ecommerce; Movellas, a SaaS mobile app for social sharing and community; Netflix, a B2B enterprise platform; and Bullhorn, a B2B SaaS app in the recruitment space – to mention a few.

What exactly is PaaS?

PaaS is a cloud-computing platform that is provided online by a cloud services vendor. The platform allows organisations to develop, deploy and run business-critical software in the cloud, without ever having to worry about purchasing, installing or maintaining sophisticated IT infrastructure: you just get to focus on your software, everything else is done for you, as an on-demand pay-per-use service. 

The value proposition is simple and powerful – it is a high-productivity development environment that industrialises IT best practice and provides everything from hardware, software, security, backup and more. Just load your application code onto it. PaaS supports the entire application lifecycle – i.e. build, test, staging and deployment. The cost savings, productivity benefits and accelerated application delivery are exceptional and positively impact the bottom-line.

Level playing field for growing businesses

PaaS gives smaller businesses the ability to truly compete with larger enterprises on a level playing field. The traditional SME constraints of size, specialised expertise and budget vs. large enterprises no longer apply. Businesses are not required to bear the burden of upfront investment or to hire hard-to-find and expensive IT specialists; they only pay the PaaS provider for services used, making it very easy to launch a new application or business. 

Take start-up FitNow. Despite a crowded weight loss application market, the company developed and launched Lose It! – a web, iPhone and Android application that enables users to track what they eat and stick to their weight-loss programmes – utilising a PaaS model. With just a few employees and no on-premise IT resources, FitNow handles 25,000 transactions per minute. With minimum financial outlay, FitNow readily competes with weight-loss giant WeightWatchers.

Flexibility and scalability at the core of PaaS for businesses of all sizes

PaaS is not just for start-ups. Leveraging a PaaS in the public cloud makes it possible for enterprises to leverage and extend their current on-premise IT assets while benefiting from a fast-lane for new projects. The technology offers unprecedented scalability to existing businesses, neither impacting operational costs nor challenging their existing on-premise applications. 

Universal Places, which has been helping travellers find hotels, resorts and bed-and-breakfasts in Spain and Portugal for over 25 years, was struggling to handle seasonal volumes that fluctuated by 1,000 per cent. This variability significantly affected their infrastructure maintenance costs – not to mention time spent resolving IT issues. The company moved its portal, hosted in-house, to a PaaS and reduced time spent resolving infrastructure issues by a whopping 80 per cent. During peak times, site scalability automatically happens.

Speedy launch of new services and features

Any organisation that is unable to keep pace with technology is likely to be left behind. PaaS enables continuous, incremental development and deployment of application functionality without disruption or downtime. Choose Digital, a private label marketplace for digital content, not only used PaaS to be the first mover in their market, but has continuously improved its offering to stay ahead. Today, Choose Digital is already in production with digital marketplaces for United Airlines and Marriott Hotels, among others. Using PaaS, they release a new client digital marketplace five times faster than they could have with traditional development. The cost savings on staff, alone, is 8-10 full-time personnel.

With the fast pace of technological development, evolving consumer trends and incessant competitive pressure, it is not far-fetched to say that PaaS will become the default standard for developing, deploying and running business applications. Businesses must evaluate and utilise cloud services. It is the most cost-effective option to meet customer demand, evolve and grow.

Sacha Labourey is CEO of CloudBees

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