Platform-as-a-service is next cloud wave, but what is it exactly?

Many federal managers don't understand the platform-as-a-service cloud delivery model and how it can help agencies cut development costs by more than 50 percent, according to a new white paper by NJVC and Virtual Global.

The cloud computing arena has been dominated by big e-mail and infrastructure providers selling commodity services, said Kevin Jackson, co-author of the paper and general manager of NJVC cloud services.

Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel has identified platform-as-a-service as “the next major value set for federal cloud computing, and it also aligns closely with his Shared Services initiative to knock down stovepipe software and save money,” Jackson said.


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“Platform as a Service (PaaS): What Is It? Why Is It Important?” attempts to clarify some of the confusion around PaaS for federal IT buyers, Jackson noted.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology describes PaaS as: “The capability provided to the consumer to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages and tools supported by the provider.”

PaaS provides developers with easier ways to create and deploy software on cloud infrastructures. “Those “easier ways” may be graphical user interfaces (GUIs), sandboxes, programming languages, shared services, application programming interfaces (APIs) and other online tools for developers,” the paper states. As a result, the PaaS model allows agencies to lower their risks, promote shared services and improve software security via a common security model.

The concept of development tools and platforms is not entirely new but the underlying infrastructures have changed significantly.

“PaaS changes the landscape — it opens the playing field to hundreds of thousands of software developers and integrators, giving them a way to actively participate,” Jackson said.

Despite its many advantages, PaaS is not perfect. "For example, many PaaS vendors require their customers to make long-term commitments to proprietary infrastructures," the paper states. "Some early adopters of PaaS have unknowingly made casual long-term commitments to infrastructure providers."

“It’s somewhat like buying gum at the counter, but needing to rent the store for 10 years," said Cary Landis, co-author and Virtual Global senior platform architect and founder.

“That is why NIST is stressing the importance of openness and portability. IT buyers must understand PaaS to make the right decisions early,” Landis said.

“The first wave of cloud computing was about consolidating data centers, the PaaS wave is about consolidating applications. It will be a more complex ride, but the savings will be greater,” Landis said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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