If you were to ask a C-level executive at any major enterprise to name three things they strive for, chances are a good number of them will cite greater productivity, faster time to market, and improved bottom lines.
A company’s IT organization can influence each of these. This fact is becoming increasingly pronounced as companies make greater investments in cloud-based technologies, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).
But what of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions? There’s buzz around them, but also a level of misunderstanding. Which is too bad, because PaaS solutions can:
- Allow managers to set up and run a secure development environment very quickly.
- Help developers focus only on the tasks that are directly relevant to writing software.
- Provide standardized and industrialized development and workflow, resulting in a more efficient, factory-like operation.
In other words, PaaS solutions can make things easier and accelerate the drive toward business goals. So why aren’t they as well known as IaaS and SaaS?
To answer that, one has to look at the history of PaaS solutions. PaaS, unlike IaaS and SaaS, is still relatively new, and simply doesn’t yet have the mindshare that other cloud technologies enjoy. Compound that with the fact that some initial PaaS offerings did not quite hit the mark — they were too narrowly focused, and not able to offer everything that organizations may have needed — and you have at least a couple of reasons why some CIOs have sat on the PaaS sidelines.
Now, it’s time to get up and start thinking about integrating PaaS tools with already-established IaaS or SaaS solutions. Because together, they can form a powerful development environment.
PaaS solutions can run on bare metal or a flexible cloud infrastructure. They can take advantage of a flexible IaaS architecture or be anchored to a SaaS. They’re highly agile and adaptable. In short, they fit in well with today’s cloud-driven IT, which, by necessity, has had to adopt the same attributes.
If that sounds like a big deal, it is — but it’s not a monolithic deal. Just as they are embracing hybrid IT infrastructures that employ different technologies and vendors, CIOs are moving beyond the concept that in order for everything to work, it needs to be built on a single, giant stack. PaaS solutions, particularly those developed within the open-source community, are highly modular and flexible while remaining very secure. This gives organizations the option to plug and play as necessary.
The trick is for CIOs to find the proper level of abstraction that allows developers to be more productive with PaaS, while still giving them the tools they need to dig down deep if necessary. PaaS solutions allow for simplified, yet powerful, development — but this is where things can get a bit tricky. Over-simplification can lead to mitigating the amount of flexibility developers have to do what they want. Simultaneously, things cannot become too open-ended or complex, thereby undermining efforts towards ease of use. Too much flexibility could impede accelerated development, which is counterproductive.
While CIOs should do their homework, implementing PaaS solutions should not give them pause. PaaS tools can serve as ideal complements to a stack the CIO is already managing. They may be one of the newest entrants into the cloud world, but they can also be among the most effective in helping CIOs streamline development efforts and, in the process, achieve their goals.
Gordon Haff is in cloud product strategy at Red Hat.