Cutting edge as-a-service solutions from public cloud providers and software vendors have helped organisations to accelerate digital transformation over the past 10 years. Whereas the lines between software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) were once regarded to be relatively distinct, they have become increasingly blurred in recent years. Companies are thus thinking about how to manage them in smarter ways as they simplify operations.
When we look back at how public cloud usage has evolved in most enterprises, SaaS often took root in business functions as users looked for cutting edge solutions to address their operational requirements. In some organisations, they did so without getting their IT departments involved. The IT department, conversely, drove PaaS and IaaS adoption as a means to access more flexible data centre services in a usage-based model.
IaaS services from hyperscale providers initially started out as a way to access computing, storage and other infrastructure in a pay-per-use model. PaaS, meanwhile, was meant to simplify software developers’ lives with a cloud environment that offered them application development and integration tools and frameworks that freed them from needing to think to deeply about the underlying infrastructure.
Smarter software development with PaaS
The distinction has become muddier over the years as the likes of AWS and Microsoft Azure added more and more PaaS-like features to their portfolio of cloud services in their efforts to help companies simplify IT and accelerate software development and deployment. AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Azure App Service, for example, are designed to simplify deploying and scaling web applications and services.
The borders between PaaS and SaaS are also becoming less clear, with companies like Salesforce straddling both territories. In addition to offering powerful and flexible SaaS solutions for customer experience, Salesforce offers a platform that lets independent software vendors and enterprises innovate, build and deploy applications without worrying about security, infrastructure, and data integration. Like many other PaaS and SaaS vendors, Salesforce aims to simplify app development even further through offering no-code and low-code development tools.
No code and low code enable business analysts and power business users to build and customise their own apps. For organisations struggling with access to skills to drive digital transformation projects, these approaches offer a way to rapidly and cost-effectively accelerate building and deploying apps. This trend means that many cutting edge low code SaaS offerings are effectively turning into a form of PaaS, albeit a less flexible and powerful one. This reality means that smarter companies will look at their as-a-service portfolios in a holistic manner.
Vendor lock-in versus ease of development
One key consideration relates to vendor lock-in. With IaaS, companies have more customisability and more freedom to switch providers because the technology is similar. But this flexibility means that the IT team will need to spending more time getting its hands dirty at the infrastructure layer. With PaaS and SaaS, developers and users are shielded from infrastructural complexity. However, it will be harder to transfer customisations and bespoke apps from a SaaS vendor or PaaS platform to a different environment. It’s essential to choose the right approach for every application and workload.
When it comes to cloud security and networking, companies face the challenge of keeping track of numerous integrations and applications hosted across their PaaS and SaaS environments. Many low-code and no-code apps may have been built outside formal DevOps processes, often with few deployment processes or security controls. It is essential to gain full visibility of all of these apps to ensure that they do not expose the business to security risks.
While opening development up to so-called ‘citizen developers’ can enable an organisation to innovate faster and optimise use of its limited IT resources, low-code and no-code apps should also fall under the umbrella of enterprise governance and security. At Nebula, we have years of experience in helping businesses to simplify cloud operations through smarter DevOps and FinOps tools and processes. Contact us to learn more about how our knowledgeable team can guide your digital transformation journey.