Future of PaaS: What Will it Look Like As a User?

Now that platform-as-a-service is becoming more pervasive, we see that the main use cases include:

  • Web application
  • Mobile application
  • API Economy
  • Integration

However, the user experience needs to be the key focus area for PaaS. From a users perspective, there are three main ways to get started on a PaaS, including Bluemix. These approaches can be summarized below.

1. Creating application from scratch

A PaaS is a great tool to create an application from scratch since it is born on the cloud with a corresponding cloud architecture. Most PaaS solutions provide services to help build your application. In specific, Bluemix has over 60 IBM and 3rd party services in the catalog to help build your application.

BM Stack

 

As the above chart shows, you can enter the Bluemix interface with no pre-existing assets, and create an application extremely quickly because the developer only has to focus on the code and data. Although creating applications from scratch will always have a place in the cloud movement, there are other tools that can be leveraged on a platform-as-a-service.

 

2. Virtual Machine

Next, PaaS will be able to host virtual machines and compute their programs with ease. Most readers are probably familiar with a VM, and therefore can visualize what it looks like to run a VM on top of a PaaS.

VM management on PaaS will only become easier and more seamless. Rest assured that VMs on PaaS will be supported in the future because of their security. While Docker Containers are new and upcoming (see below), VMs will need extensive PaaS support for mission critical applications.

3. Docker Container

Docker helps solve the problem of helping developers and system administrators build, ship, and run distributed applications. The Docker platform helps make programmable processes self-contained that can run on a single kernel, with a single interface to manage the container.

Docker containers are extremely relevant to PaaS due to their high portability. The combination of Docker with platforms-as-a-service will allow developers to manage running containers, combine processes to running containers, and communicate with the Docker repository. In this regard, containers on a PaaS will make it incredibly easy to start/stop containers and view the running logs.

In fact, Docker demands that you store all config values, dependencies, everything inside of the container itself

Docker on Bluemix enables users to port their existing applications and make them publicly accessible for one’s user base. This is made possible because Docker requires all dependencies to be stored inside the container itself.

CONCLUSION

With tools such as Docker, the landscape of the PaaS will be drastically changing. The PaaS that can adapt to make it as simple for users as possible to get started on the platform from scratch, with a VM, or with a container will win the hearts of developers. Each approach offers unique pros and drawbacks.

For example, while Docker containers are extremely efficient, their security isn’t as robust as a VM. While building from scratch provides flexibility, it does not provide as much speed as the other times. Some applications require more security, and some require less overhead to run. The requirements of the application determine which approach the user wants to take. In the end, the PaaS needs to provide all options to their customers.

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How Does a Platform-as-a-Service Make Your Life Easier?

Congratulations! You have just came up with the next $1bn dollar idea. Now, all you have to do is to build your idea and test it out in the marketplace. Easy, right? Although technology has jumped over numerous hurdles to make this process easier for developers, there are still gaps that can be closed with a Platform-as-a-Service and more specifically, Bluemix.

Here is a short list of the many areas where Bluemix makes life easier for web developers.

  1. Free-tier testing of a minimum viable product without:
    • Purchasing a domain name
    • Paying a virtual private server for a web hosting service
  2. Auto-scaling handles extra tasks, such as load balancing, automatically
  3. Integration with other services, such as popular databases, is made with the click of a button
  4. High quality security services offered by IBM are either automatic or easy to use
  5. Enterprise quality assurance of hardware and middleware backed by IBM
  6. It takes 30 seconds to push your applications onto Bluemix for hosting

1. Free-tier testing of an MVP

Without a platform-as-a-service, you would have to pay for a domain name as well as a host to house your application. If you are testing a new idea, the entire idea of using Bluemix to build a minimum viable product is to keep costs as low as possible. The process of acquiring a domain and a host adds extra burden too whereas Bluemix allows you to almost instantly get an application up and running.

When creating your first application, the URL will be www.your_application_name.mybluemix.net. In this way, you can create an application and send out the link to potential customers to immediately start receiving feedback on your idea.

2. Auto-scaling

When building out a web application, the creators must begin to worry about scaling and load balancing as the website grows in visitors. Two popular load balancing tools are NginX and Apache. While these tools are extremely useful, if your sole goal is to test an idea out as quickly as possible, wouldn’t it be nice if this was automated for you?

That is exactly what the Bluemix auto-scaling function does. It is a free service that scales up your application in terms of instances and memory as more visitors come to your website. Whenever your web application becomes profitable, then it is a great time to use the auto-scaling application to make your development life easier.

3. Service Integration

Bluemix supports over 75 IBM and third party services in the catalog. The old process of adding services to an application required integration code. Now, you can do this in under 15 seconds with a few clicks. It is that simple to get a SQL, Cloudant NoSQL, or MongoDB up and running.

4. Security

Bluemix has top notch security backed by IBM.

  • Some services have security built-in
  • Security services can be added manually – such as Single Sign-on (which supports OAuth 2.0)
  • Security services can be added that run automatically – such as AppScan Dynamic Analyzer

For those that are further interested in security, please see this additional security resource.

5. High quality hardware and middleware

When you host your web application on other platforms, you always have to be cautious about the availability and reliability. When it comes to the backbone of Bluemix – SoftLayer – the concern is mitigated because you know that you are getting the best in the market.

6. Speed

If you have your code ready, you can have it running on Bluemix with a link extending to the outside world in about 30 seconds. It is incredibly fast. Want to see what it looks like to build a sentiment analysis of tweets on an internet of things platform with a Mongo back end – in five minutes? This short video demonstrates the power of Bluemix for creating and testing new ideas in the marketplace.

What has been the biggest problem for you when developing a new web application? I’m curious to hear about it and see how Bluemix can help you.