Platform as a Service (PaaS) falls under the basic model of cloud computing services that includes Saas and IaaS, and the newest addition to the family – XaaS or “Anything as a Service” (a designation which shows the growing ubiquity of internet services). PaaS can be best thought of as a way to rent hardware, operating systems, storage, and network capacity over the Internet. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST), Platform as a Service is defined as “The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider.” The advantage of this model is that application developers can develop and run their software solutions on a cloud platform without worrying about the cost of setting up the network servers, operating systems, or storage – these features are all controlled by the PaaS software provided to the consumer.
Any consumer that tried to setup a web application pre-2008 realized that this was no small undertaking. Before ever writing a single line of code, the user would have to deploy the LAMP structure, involving downloading Linux, PHP, MySQL, Apache, and usually paying a 3rd party web service to host these services. Conversely, the main benefit of PaaS is that it offers an out of the box production-ready hosted environment from the start as well as easily scalable means for creating and deploying software applications.
Recent years has witnessed a surge of new PaaS services that provide various kinds of business solutions for the developer – application design, development, and testing; deployment and hosting; application services such as team collaboration, web service integration and database integration, security; and much more.
In the following we will survey three popular PaaS services, which happen to represent 3 different levels of customization and scalability currently available for software application setup, deployment, and hosting.
Google App Engine
Released in April, 2008, GAE as it’s usually known, is a platform as a service (PaaS) cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications in Google-based environments. Google App Engine is free to start and all applications can use up to 1 GB of storage and enough CPU and bandwidth to support an efficient app serving around 5 million page views a month, absolutely free. GAE claims no set-up costs and no recurring fees. You only pay for the resources you use above the free levels.
Google App Engine is customized for fast performance and application can be developed on three popular platforms, Java and Python, and more recently Go, a new open-source programming language that as claimed, “makes it easy to build simple, reliable, and efficient software.”
The GAE motto is “Easy to build, Easy to scale, Easy to maintain” and of course users are able to leverage Google’s reputation for running a highly reliable, high performance infrastructure.
Deploying an application in GAE requires some comfort and familiarity with setting up a development environment, configured in this case with Java, Python, or Go SDKs. However, for those less familiar with the process, there is ample documentation on the GAE site to assist in setup. Another simple and useful guide to deploying a GAE instance is available here.
The advantages of GAE is that it offers various services to integrate into your Applications, such as Task Queue, XMPP, and Cloud SQL, which are all easily accessed within the same Google infrastructure that most of us access every day.
Once the development environment is live, setting up a GAE instance is easy: just select enter the domain and title and you’re set. Users can create as many as 10 applications, with a limit increase possible by Google staff.
And once an application is setup, users can manage their activity through a simple, web-based dashboard
The popularity of Google makes GAE a reliable cloud hosting and app development environment for many. Some setup is required but users are ensured of a robust and secure site for their hosting and deployment needs. In fact, in 2011 the British Royal Family selected Google as the web hosting provider for Prince William’s official wedding website, containing news updates, photo galleries and videos – all hosted on Google App Engine.
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It is a cloud-based PHP hosting service founded in August 2010, which provides state-of-the-art innovative Platform as a Service (PaaS) for developers who wish to build out of the box applications with as little headache as possible. With the motto, “Rock-solid Cloud Platform for PHP,” the real value add of this service is that it’s a mashup of solutions that circumvents the need for installing servers and frameworks manually. The user can launch an app in less than 5 minutes and with the company’s innovative “jumpstarts” program can get a PHP framework such as Zend, CakePHP, or CodeIgnitor started immediately. Or else a developer can deploy any number of applications such as Drupal, WordPress, Joomla and others with the click of a button.
Setting up an application is trouble-free. Simply choose “My Clouds” from the Menu bar and then go to the “Apps” Drop-down.
You are then presented with a listing of application platforms to choose from.
For example, choosing to deploy a “Custom App” in PHP is easy – you just need to have a domain URL available. Once you enter your Domain URL and select “Create App” a custom PHP Fog application will be created with the .phpfogapp.com extension. The PHP Fog site adds the following disclaimer: “Please note: Apps on the shared cloud must be created with a .phpfogapp.com subdomain. You will be able to change to a custom domain name later for $5 per month.”
After creating the application the user is presented with a nicely intuitive dashboard that provides a significant measure of control over storage, SSL, permissions, add-ons, and many other features.
These are just some of the many fine features offered by PHP Fog. The user has a considerable number of options to scale up and expand the cloud services, based on the number of applications one wishes to run. The free version provides up to 3 apps, 100MB of storage, and charges only $5/month for a customized Domain (without the .phpfogapp.com extension).
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A PaaS that represents a revolutionary approach to PaaS by extending the concept of clouds services beyond the apps and cloud deployments phases to also include a full suite of business management features. The company’s motto is “We make cloud apps simple . . . build your database app, launch your cloud and manage your business 100% visually.”
The unique feature of WorkXPress is its 5GL technology. This represents fifth-generation programming technology, which consists of a “visual programming” approach based on constraints given to the program rather than using an algorithm. According to the website, “WorkXpress empowers business users, analysts and so many more to build complex business applications without programming. For every 1 trained software developer who can write code in 3GL’s and 4GL’s, there are 1000 people who can build sophisticated applications using WorkXpress.”
WorkXpress therefore claims to be “the world’s first true 5th generation development language” and sites the following as indicators: 1) Tightly integrated data, interface and logic layers 2) accessed entirely from a visual IDE 3) a visual query builder 4) a visual expression builder 5) Visual business logic, both procedural and object-oriented 6) Rich interface and navigational control 7) built with a WYSIWYG drag and drop canvas.
The administrative dashboard is user-friendly for the beginner to manage apps and clouds, while elegant enough to appeal to the more seasoned developer.
WorkXpress fits a lot under its hood, offering users a suite of “business & finances” options to manage and setup their own IT Business.
The 5GL technology is evident in the setup and deployment of an application. No programming knowledge is required as WYSIWYG drag and drop features allow easy and intuitive control of app creation and management.
The WorkXpress PaaS platform offers a fully-integrated, holistic approach to setting up an IT infrastructure . . . from visually building database software, to cloud creation and hosting, to testing and deployment of applications . . . finally to even selling apps and services. A free 30-day trial version is available and regular pricing is very modest, based on daily usage. The WorkXpress solution has so much packed into its platform that it’s almost too good to be true and one can almost get the impression that there’s simply too much here that can be usefully scaled. But whatever the case, the company has set the gold standard for what the next generation of IT cloud computing PaaS services will look like.
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