LinkedIn.com is a product of the cloud. Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple will all take advantage of the Cloud. It is the future. Ignore it and perish. The Cloud is an old idea wrought new with technology and increased network and web availability. It is Adam Smith's division of labor, itself a law of economics which was apparent to Sumerians, Semites, Persians and ancient Greeks.
The main components of outsourcing applications and informational usage to the Internet are the following:
Software as a Service (SaaS) — the most common and widely known form of Cloud Computing. This is the salesforce.com model.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) — the next step of data center outsourcing and will continue to evolve.
Security as a Service (YaaS) — YaaS is a new tier that will start to evolve and come into play very quickly.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) — The focus of this article and one of the areas poised for explosive growth.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the most interesting. PaaS is basically, any service offering provided through the Internet that enables the deployment of applications without having to setup and manage an application infrastructure. For IT departments, this can be a great boon — PaaS offers an alternative way to perform rapid application development and deployment that can be very economical. Vendors that have service offerings in this area include Salesforce.com, Bungee Connect, Google App Engine, Etelos, Intuit’s QuickBase and LongJump.
One of the main benefits of using a PaaS service is that IT departments can quickly prototype, develop and deploy applications without an upfront capital expense or ongoing investment in administration and operating costs. No need to spend money on expensive hardware, software and additional people resources out of the gate. Prior to PaaS, IT departments would need to reallocate resources or add capacity to existing infrastructure before application developers could even start prototyping. In the past, the cost and time associated with such a venture could prove prohibitive.
PaaS vendors already have a development environment deployed and constantly monitor and manage capacity so IT departments can quickly begin working on application prototyping and design. It’s important to note that PaaS services are still evolving and finding a vendor with the right development environment for an IT department’s needs can be tricky. Expect to see the platform offerings continue to evolve so that robust tools and environments are available. There are some SaaS service providers that allow companies to customize their services using an embedded PaaS infrastructure. One of the most common services in this area would be from salesforce.com.
PaaS may not be right for every IT shop; however, there are best practices that can be applied to internal application development environments. For example, manage capacity (not only adding more but managing what’s currently available), separate prototype and production environments, and create a simple sign-up process for any employee to use.
There are many financial, business and technical reasons to look at whether PaaS is right for a given situation as a replacement or hybrid to how a company manages an application infrastructure. Questions to ask regarding any PaaS deployment:
Software licensing and fees for prototyping as well as full deployment (should it get that far);
Level of application security available;
Ownership rights (this shouldn’t be an issue for all, but some shops want to own all their application code);
Application and data backup/restore policies.
PaaS is part of the future. A trend as apparent as the use of mobility in business. Firms need to plan and embrace this method of increasing productivity and cutting costs.