We asked developers, CTOs, entrepreneurs and consultants across the country to describe concrete ways in which PaaS has changed their development style.
RELATED CONTENT: Three cloud PaaS trends to watch in a serverless world
1. Reducing headcount
Rob Reagan, CTO of Text Request
At Text Request, we’re able to also reduce headcount using Azure’s PaaS offerings. Without PaaS, we’d have to staff a very senior infrastructure and security expert. It’s pretty rare to find developers who really know how to harden servers. However, our developers are very familiar with hardening an application.
Azure really shines with PaaS, far outpacing Amazon. If you’re looking for IaaS, Amazon leaves Microsoft in the dust.
Note: There is likely a point where the cost curve for PaaS bends backwards. If you’re maintaining a site like Reddit and have a few hundred servers, an infrastructure team is probably cheaper than multiple PaaS services.
With PaaS like Azure Web Apps, I don’t stay awake at night worrying about network-level intrusions. Microsoft’s security experts at their Azure data centers are probably going to do a much better job than our comparatively smaller team.
2. Conserving startup cash flow
Peter Kirwan, CEO of Collexion, Inc.
My latest startup, Collexion, has built its entire product on PaaS. Our core features are built on AWS, but we have gone a lot farther than other companies by making the commitment to develop critical parts of our application architecture incorporating many specialized AWS applications.
For example, we use AWS’s Cloudsearch to index millions of items to increase performance and take the load off our database. There are other examples, like their AI tools and image recognition, that are pay-per-query via an API so that we use the platform but don’t manage any of the infrastructure. In addition to AWS, we integrate with third-party cloud-based applications through APIs, Zapier and IFTTT.
I made a strong push when founding the company to use as many PaaS and cloud applications to rent vs. build, which not only saves a massive amount of software development, but eliminates the need for 24/7 management of the site in the early stages of the company.
3. Accelerating HMI development
Kim Rowe, CEO and founder of RoweBots Ltd
PaaS allows us to accelerate analytics and human-machine interface (HMI) development, while still having embedded solutions that are secure and precisely meet embedded sensor requirements. For example, we built a concussion sensor demonstration in 30 calendar days with 2.5 developers. This would have been impossible without the Microsoft Azure framework.
The powerful analytics developed by the cloud vendors are readily available for a price, accelerating development by years in some cases, which is certainly a superpower.
A system that would have taken 6-8 months to complete can now be completed in 30 calendar days. An Azure system that will scale to multiple wireless routers and hundreds of end users is underway with an extra month of effort in total.
Our favorite tools are MQTT (a machine-to-machine connectivity protocol for IoT-type publish/subscribe messaging transport) and Azure — and we’re currently looking at Ayla, MediumOne and Watson for other clients.
4. Building a DevOps pipeline
Marek Sadowski, IoT advocate
As a Bluemix developer, I can spend more time on the business logic of the application itself. Before developing on Bluemix, a large amount of my time was unfortunately consumed by implementing container fixpacks, upgrades, etc. Now it is all provided for me. I have access to enterprise grade systems — regardless if I’m developing for a large corporation or a startup. Also, all of the configuration and the connectivity to the other elements of the system are elevated now — I use what is provided in the description of the service table.
As an architect, it is very easy to rely on the availability of the system. Simple scaling up (or down) mechanisms take care of the irregularities of traffic to my apps and services. Furthermore, there is no need for system administrators — this role is taken over by Bluemix as well.
If I deploy an application on Bluemix it can be reachable globally, and I can achieve this reach quickly without database administrators, system support teams or hardware engineers.
Finally, there is no need for upfront investment, so startups can now match large enterprises with access to infinite resources — paying for them as they go, starting small and growing with the user base and app usage flexibly and as needed.
5. Faster prototyping
Hernan Santiesteban, Founder of Great Lakes Development Group
PasS has definitely changed the way I build software. The ability to quickly get a system up that contains all the necessary tools is a great time-saver. I mainly work with Azure, but the same can be said for most of the cloud services providers. With PaaS tools, you can get a fully functional web application up in just a few minutes. This includes all the basic necessities like a database, web API scaffolding and authentication.
The ease with which you can get a system up makes prototyping a breeze. This gives you ability to focus on the problem you’re trying to fix. No need to spend valuable time settings up the foundation of a system that may not be in existence for more than a few hours or days.
If you’re running a production application, the ability to automatically scale if your app encounters an unexpected traffic spike can help you rest at night.
However, if you’re just running an app with a small number of users, you have no need to prototype, and you can easily handle all the maintenance yourself, then PaaS may not be the right answer.
6. Microservices architectures
Gal Oppenheimer, Senior product manager for Built.io
A proper, stable PaaS can be a breath of fresh air. When we launched PaaS as a feature in Built.io Backend in October 2013, it enabled both our internal teams and developers. Any developer could now build a fully automated application — frontend, backend and mobile — on their own.
If you factor in the time it takes to setup, secure and scale a server, you could easily bring a three-month project down to 1.5 months or less. For a project with one web developer and one application developer, you can completely forgo a 50% DevOps engineer.
At Built.io, we’re very big fans of Docker and Node.js. Combined, they offer significant simplifications in your server stack and enable cleaner cross-compatibility of code and content by eliminating data transformations between your APIs and server code.
If you’re doing work that benefits from direct resource access (i.e. processing video or graphics), it’s often important to have fine-tuned control of your infrastructure. However, in the modern, microservices approach to development, we’d recommend separating this feature and either using a third-party service that solves this need or build it from scratch.