Heroku Review

Cloud Service Models - PaaS


In my last post, I looked at some of the major IaaS vendors with a view on how they are being adopted. In this blog I want to look at the broad spectrum of the Platform as a Service (PaaS) models and the compelling reasons that make PaaS a strong option for developers and companies to speed up development and slash costs.  Current predictions estimate that globally the PaaS market is predicted to reach $22 billion in 2014. As a whole Europe’s cloud activities will gather pace and momentum, creating 3.8 million cloud professionals and jobs by 2020 mainly within the PaaS sector.

So why is PaaS becoming so popular?

To put it succinctly, PaaS allows developers to have the complete tools, operating systems, middleware and programming language to build their applications. Everything is then hosted and stored by the PaaS vendor. PaaS offers the developer a solution that is a complete software development, testing and deployment environment. In addition it has the benefit that the operating system, virtual machines, infrastructure and IDE are hidden and not a concern to the developer. PaaS service models have automatic scalability to allow for increased usage or spikes in activity – therefore making PaaS a really useful way to build high traffic web apps.

Some of the advantages of using PaaS platforms:

  • Fast and speedy development environment: You can commission databases or VMs in seconds and quickly build and deploy code. It provides a single code repository and development environment, which is good for multi-location development teams.
  • Huge cost savings on development: Due to faster build times which allow applications to get to market faster.
  • Easily deployed databases: Which are configured and managed on the PaaS platform with many providers offering either traditional SQL or NoSQL databases
  • Elastic scalability
  • Easy support and connectivity: To various software or packages (wordpress, drupal, etc)
  • Better security: You can leverage the security protocols from the PaaS vendor for your own application benefit

Who are some of the main PaaS Vendors?

  • Owned by Salesforce.com
  • Supports many of the popular open source languages: Ruby, Java, Scala, Node.js, Python, Clojure running on Debian, Linux
  • One of the oldest PaaS vendors, been around since June 2007
  • Support the extremely popular code repository Git.
  • Large support for NoSQL databases such as MongoDB
  • A popular .Net Cloud development platform
  • Good support for Git and MySQL
  • Originally offered a lot of the services that Mircosoft adopted and released witrh Azure 2.0 in 2012
Microsoft Windows Azure
  • As of 2012 a very comprehensive PaaS offering that not only supports .Net but now supports Java, Node.js, Ruby and python.
  • Has a strong IDE and development GUI while supporting Git or TFS code repositories.
  • Support Hadoop distributed computing
  • Also supports various SQL or NoSQL databases and multiple CMS systems such as WordPress, Drupal, etc
  • Now a very comprehensive PaaS offering that keeps getting bigger and more flexible
Amazon Web Services
  • AWS supports many Open Source programming languages on the Elastic Beanstalk platform.
  • Supports Hadoop distributed computing
    • Has a AWS Toolkit for Eclipse (a plug-in for the Eclipse Java Integrated Development Environment), AWS CloudFormation (a service that lets developers create and provision Amazon resources), several cloud-based database options and SDKs for Android and Apple mobile machines, ERuby, Java, PH and .Net.
Cloud Foundry
  • Open Source project run by VMWare which uses vSphere technology as infrastructure.
  • Supports Java, Node.js, Scala and Ruby languages
  • Has huge tie in with the popular web framework, Spring.

There are also numerous other major PaaS Vendors with their own offerings such as OpenStack, Longjump, IBM Smartcloud, Redhat Openshift (based on Linux) Google App Engine, Cloudbees and Engine Yard.  

From a UK recruitment perspective: What skills do I need to hire to move my IT development unto a PaaS environment?

Architects: Software development specialists with a strong understanding of how to build on a specific PaaS platform, unlike IaaS architects who generally have come from Infrastructure background. Will have a strong coding background on a core programming language like Java or C# but will understand the build and deployment issues that are alligned to the PaaS platform. Currently as of November 2012, UK contract rates for PaaS Architects are £600-£700 per day and permanent salaries of £75-90k.

Database Admins: These will be specialist Database people with a strong understanding of how the database runs on the PaaS platform. For instance Windows Azure SQL DB is configured and set up different than on-premise SQL servers. It isnt necessarily a vast jump for an existing DBA to learn this, but for companies with large or complex databases, a DBA with specific PaaS product knowledge could be invaluable to move. Currently as of November 2012, UK contract rates for PaaS DBAs are £450-£550 per day and permanent salaries of £60-80k.

Developers: There will be a distinct advantage to hiring developers who have previously built and deployed applications using a PaaS platform such as AWS or Azure. Obviously, these PaaS platforms have been designed to be as easy and as quick to build on as possible, but having a few developers with prior platform development will assist large development teams get to grips with the specific idiosyncrasies of the PaaS platform and will enable the incumbent team get skilled up and productive as quickly as possible Currently as of November 2012, UK contract rates for Developers with PaaS experience are £450-£550 per day and permanent salaries of £60-80k

Lastly, in the UK, compared to the US, the skills pool for IT professionals at the current time with genuine commercial skills in cloud and PaaS technologies is very shallow. Companies looking to move to PaaS development environments are struggling to find external skills. As more companies use these technologies the skills market will expand, but the demand for these skills will be even greater and it will become even harder to recruit.

My advice to any CTO or CIO looking to move their IT to a PaaS development stream is: hire your team early before the rest of the industry wakes up and tries to hire the same person you want to!   As a candidate in 2012 and 2013 you will have a distinct competitive advantage and demand on your services if you have strong knowledge of these PaaS platforms and can bring this expertise to a new employer.

Next Time: I will look at the last Cloud service model – SaaS and see how the productized market vendors are getting on and how some of the new technologies are innovating the way we use IT.   PS – As an additional note since I started researching and writing this blog a few companies have started to offer a Database as a Service offering – DbaaS – which is a form of PaaS but focused predominantly on providing databases hosted in the Cloud. If this is of interest, check out: bit.ly/XdAnvI

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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