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Is PaaS just another four-letter word in cloud computing?

PaaS is a quick fix for companies looking to deploy new apps, but established firms with legacy apps may consider it a dirty word.

Four letters that seem to be on everyone’s lips this week are P-a-a-S. From rumors about Microsoft dropping its Azure nomenclature to Red Hat’s hybrid Platform as a Service plan, the development platform has received its share of the cloud hubbub.

So, what’s with all the noise about Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

PaaS offers a few advantages over Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), especially for companies without skills in-house to deal with the infrastructure side of cloud.

ARTstor, an online image library for universities and museums, was under pressure to allow its subscribers to put their own images into its system and make it searchable in Google. That would have required manpower the company simply didn’t have, said Eugene Dvorkin, lead architect and developer at ARTstor.

Though some say the hype around PaaS is overblown, it does have its place. It’s particularly a fit in shops that need to get apps up and running quickly, such as start-up companies.

“We had to do it fast, and the operations team couldn’t do it fast enough,” Dvorkin said. “Cloud providers offered the opportunity for instant gratification.”

Essentially, PaaS lets companies of all sizes take advantage of the elasticity and compute power cloud promises. Once you abstract away the underlying infrastructure of cloud, you don’t need to deal with it at the server level, said Steve Harris, vice president of products at CloudBees, Inc., a Java-based PaaS provider.

Choosing the right PaaS provider can be tricky. It came down to familiarity and simplicity for ARTstor.

“We use MongoDB, but had no experience with running it in production,” Dvorkin said. “We looked into Heroku and Amazon Elastic Beanstalk; Heroku required us to be familiar with Git and the deployment mechanism wasn’t familiar to us. [With] Elastic Beanstalk, you have to do all the integration yourself.”

In the end, ARTstor went with CloudBees because it was more “hands-off” than other options, Dvorkin said. ARTstor operations teams also were familiar with Jenkins, the open source continuous integration server project, which CloudBees contributes to and supports.

Though some say the hype around PaaS is overblown, it does have its place. It’s particularly a fit in shops that need to get apps up and running quickly, such as start-up companies, one industry insider said.

Well-established businesses, on the other hand, will struggle to move legacy applications onto PaaS.

“It would be nice if we could just deploy existing applications [in CloudBees]. We still cannot move all applications because we’re in a mixed environment,” Dvorkin said. “It would be nice if one instance could do everything.”

For many enterprises, a move to PaaS requires some internal infrastructure changes.

“Our next step is to move other applications over to the cloud, but we need to upgrade infrastructure and deploy them in a PaaS,” Dvorkin added. “There will be some re-architecting because we have reliance on hard drives that won’t work in a cloud environment.”

Michelle Boisvert is Senior Site Editor for Contact her at

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