Cloud computing has had a profound impact on the small business sector in recent years for many reasons, but the single most important characteristic of this technology is its ability to facilitate the deployment of other IT initiatives. Organizations have leveraged cloud services to become more agile, modernized and efficient, all the while using these tools as a foundation for more robust IT service management and delivery capabilities.
It should not be surprising that many businesses are using hosted and managed services for cloud deployments, especially considering the importance of expertise in this area to optimize working environments. However, the fact that the cloud products are managed externally by a service provider does not take control out of the hands of the business, but rather frees up its key players to tackle more strategic matters.
Software-as-a-Service has been the most widely adopted segment of the cloud thus far, and its largest share of the market is expected to remain in effect for years to come. However, Platform-as-a-Service has become especially popular in the past few years, and many small businesses are already leveraging these tools to capture the full power of applications in lifecycle management and development projects.
PaaS is a breakthrough technology that continues to become more affordable, intuitive and accessible, sharing a fundamental advantage of its cloud counterparts to level the playing field between smaller businesses and larger enterprises. Before jumping into what PaaS can be used to accomplish and how organizations are deploying the services, it might be helpful to know what the solution entails and how the market has played out thus far.
Platforms are comprised of several different types of equipment - including computing hardware, servers, networks and more - that form an environment in which applications can be manipulated, stored and delivered. Whereas a company would have had to traditionally purchase all of this equipment, configure it properly into the infrastructure and conduct routine maintenance over time, the cloud has minimized the amount of legwork required to get these frameworks moving.
PaaS is part of the stacked services that cloud computing is often defined by, sitting atop the foundation of Infrastructure-as-a-Service and beneath SaaS. Some solutions in this arena have already progressed to the point of optimal usability in the sense that coding and programming skills are not necessary to build and manipulate applications, though widespread use of this echelon of options is still a bit far off on the horizon.
Still, PaaS is currently the fastest-growing segment of the cloud market.
The International Data Corporation released its forecast for PaaS growth through the next three years, and asserted that annual market revenues should reach $14 billion by 2017. The IDC pointed to the increased need for social, mobile and contextual support frameworks among businesses today, as well as the expected rising demands in these areas, as major reasons why PaaS has become so popular.
"The [compound annual growth rate] for the worldwide public PaaS 2013–2017 forecast is almost 30 percent," Robert Mahowald, Program Vice President for SaaS and Cloud Software Research at IDC, explained. "Additionally, IDC research indicates that by 2017, public PaaS will account for more than 10 percent of overall application development and deployment revenue, with strong growth occurring in every region of the world, especially in Asia/Pacific (including Japan)."
Trends driving demand
Between enterprise mobility, marketing, client relationship management, resource planning and big data, the need for customized applications has peaked in many industries. As experts have asserted in the past, a smartphone would simply be a cellphone without apps, and very few connected devices would pack the type of power many employees and consumers expect without these pieces of software.
Considering the high cost of traditional platform creation and deployment, as well as the strain that these projects could place on IT departments in the early implementation stages, it is not surprising that PaaS has been used more frequently. The speed to deployment, as well as the upfront costs and long-term maintenance demands, are simply more competitive than those of traditional platform investments.
The economic recession forced businesses to find ways to become more lean, efficient and productive, and the cloud has been one of the more important vehicles toward these types of performances. PaaS comes with the ability to reduce IT expenditures while fitting the efficiency and productivity demands of social media, market research, CRM, big data, mobility and much more.
Because demand has increased so rapidly, the options available to business owners are beginning to expand more rapidly, while the potential uses of the tools have likewise started to proliferate.
A look ahead
Cloud computing technology is expected to become ubiquitous in the coming years, moving into a more foundational role in the average home and workplace similar to utilities. Before this happens, though, each of the various services involved will continue to become more diversified and robust, and PaaS will likely be at the center of several movements.
Forbes recently explained that PaaS and IaaS are becoming increasingly converged, and this is not necessarily a shocking development considering the provisioning behaviors of the average business owner. Whereas most decision-makers were procuring one cloud product at a time to fit a specific need, more are beginning to understand the value of overhauling the entirety of their IT frameworks with the help of these services.
One thing is for sure - PaaS adoption will continue to skyrocket amid the spread of the Internet of Things trend, mobility, big data, telecommuting and other current movements, as well as those that are still yet to impact corporate IT management procedures.
Specialization is one of the more important progressions to watch, in the sense that the technology is becoming more customized to specific needs of a given user. With application development and lifecycle management making their way into the mainstream, specialized PaaS options will provide businesses with varying levels of expertise, budgets and objectives with the tools they need to succeed in the relevant projects.