I recently created the latest chapter on the book I am writing about Cloud Computing in the Public Sector. It was the chapter I was dreading the most because it was on the PaaS (platform as a service) public cloud. This is perhaps the least understood, and certainly from all indications I have, the least used in the public sector at this time.
Platform as a Service clouds allow you to rapidly develop and scale web applications in the cloud. You don’t have the control over the existing infrastructure that you do in an IaaS cloud, where you can control the OS, the patching of that OS and your application, but what you get is rapid, easy development. As another example of this simpleness, you don’t get to specify the parameters that you will use to scale up and scale down the number of web servers used to deliver your application as you do in the AWS cloud. What you get is a simple, easy to use development platform with an integrated development environment and one touch “upload to the cloud” features.
Some of the major players in this market are:
Microsoft. Yep. The same folks that make Windows and Office 365. With their Windows Azure product, and their existing SQL development tools, they have a nice offering which works very well.
Google. We all know the Google browser and some of you may know Google from their Software as a Service offering Google Apps. But with Google App Engine, you can rapidly develop web applications, test them with a built in emulator that comes as part of the development environment, and with one click, upload the application to the Google cloud.
VMware. What did you say? VMware is a virtualization company that only has a private or hybrid IaaS cloud offering, right? Well they also announced their PaaS offering about 9 months ago. It has support for a lot of different languages and databases. It even has an open source component and is becoming a major player in this aspect of cloud.
These are two of the critical factors in choosing a PaaS providers: What language do you want to use and what database do you want to use? When it comes to languages and DB support, it appears that no two vendors are alike.
So how did the chapter go? Great, thanks to a friend of mine who is a developer. He came over one day and in just a few minutes we had downloaded the Google App Enginer IDE (Integrated Development Environment), imported some sample code, tested it on the included simulator and uploaded it (with one key click) to the Google cloud. Our experience on the Windows Azure environment was very much the same. Download a few development tools, and you are ready to begin development and testing.
Again, for rapid development of scalable web applications without having to worry about the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software and provisioning hosting capabilities, PaaS should be one of the options considered!
As always, thanks for reading. Follow me on twitter at @GTSICTO.