If you’re a small business or startup looking to build applications and websites in the cloud and you’re concerned about the shortage in cloud management skills within your firm, you’re not alone. It’s a common concern amongst UK businesses, where 38% find it difficult to source professionals with cloud skills, according to the Microsoft Cloud Skills Report.
As such, it makes sense to look at options to minimise the amount of legwork required to get started in the cloud for the first time. One of these options is to use platform-as-a-service (PaaS) – an alternative to infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud hosting where some aspects of the cloud environment are pre-built to free up operational resources and speed up the development process.
But is PaaS a viable option for your business, or would you be better off with IaaS in the long run? Here’s a quick overview of the two cloud strategies.
The case for PaaS
PaaS is a platform where you can build, test and deploy your own applications without having to worry about other parts of the technology stack like servers, databases and runtimes. The platform is maintained by a third party and designed to support rapid, predictable development cycles out of the box.
If you want to focus on developing applications and driving (if not scaling) your business, PaaS is a good option as the environment is ready-made, proven and supported, meaning less time is spent on maintenance and repetitive, low-value technical work such as bug-fixing.
The case for IaaS
IaaS, in comparison, uses undefined virtual machines that can be used for any type of application. The end-user has the freedom and flexibility to configure and manage their own software (as well as setting up the virtual machines themselves), and while some IaaS management tools provide templates and other pre-built components, users still retain more or less complete control over their environment.
IaaS is used by most major applications and is the fastest growing category of cloud service – this year alone it is projected to grow by 37%, according to Gartner, compared to around 18% for PaaS. A key reason for this demand is that IaaS users have true control over their infrastructure and room for customisation – much more so than with PaaS.
It’s also more cost-effective in the long-run, as pricing models tend to also be more flexible than PaaS (where you effectively pay a third-party to manage parts of your environment for you and may be at risk of vendor lock-in and dependency on their proprietary technologies).
Whilst PaaS appears to be the less resource-intensive option, with obvious advantages to a firm with limited skills or cash at their disposal, the choice between IaaS and PaaS still isn’t always clear-cut.
There’s a reason IaaS is the fastest growing cloud service model – it delivers more value in the long run, and is necessary for businesses that require greater control, flexibility and customisation than PaaS will allow.
Moreover, with the right support and management tools (like virtual machine templates, load balancing and networking features), IaaS is not as complex as you may initially think. As such, businesses would do well to remember that it pays to treat IaaS not as a commodity solution, but rather make a decision based on other factors such as availability of feature-rich management tools and quality of support.