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Developing and Deploying Hybrid Cloud Applications with PaaS

One way organizations are developing and deploying applications in the hybrid cloud is by using a PaaS (Platform as a Service) approach. Developing in a PaaS environment differs from the way development organizations have designed software over the past few decades.

In a traditional model, the development team may select a variety of different tools — operating systems, middleware, security products, and the like. Many organizations have been very effective with this approach. However, typically, there are problems in managing complexity — especially in an era when more and more aspects of daily life are controlled by software.

The following list highlights a few factors that make it hard for development teams to synchronize their efforts, whether their work environment is on-premises or in the cloud:

  • Teams are distributed across business units or different geographic regions of a company.

  • Software code needs to work across multiple platforms and devices.

  • The software development process requires individual components that all need to work together in a service-oriented way.

  • Market dynamics lead to a faster software development lifecycle.

The software quality and time to develop will suffer unless the team has a way to test for, locate, and fix errors early in the software development process. In a PaaS model, the development organization uses a platform and its services to help develop and deploy applications to the cloud. The platform consists of a group of services that can help streamline the process.

Developing cloud applications using PaaS

PaaS is a kind of cloud development platform. It provides hosted services used during development, such as middleware and operating systems. Over the past few years, as early adopter companies started to develop for the cloud, developers often cobbled together their own cloud development platforms. In a PaaS however, these services are always available for a developer to use without having to install or maintain software.

Application development services are the core of PaaS support for the development process. They’re the anchor services that streamline the process of developing applications in the cloud. A PaaS platform

  • Provides the developer with a complete environment to provision, develop, build, test, and stage applications.

  • Abstracts the details from the developer so that developers can focus on the task of coding and not on supporting the systems needed for development and testing.

Integrated development environments (IDEs) are commonly used by developers on their desktop in traditional environments and can also be used with shared cloud services when using PaaS. There are some key advantages for a developer when the IDE is used with the cloud:

  • You can still use your existing IDE on your desktop, but it becomes much easier and faster to share your code with other members of your team.

  • You can push your code into a shared repository in the cloud so everyone has immediate access to the same code and tools.

  • You can test your code during development against the same systems your end users will access, using services provided by the PaaS. As a result, errors in the code are found sooner, and the resulting applications are delivered faster.

It’s important to note that a PaaS development environment may require you to limit how you develop in order to be compatible with the underlying services. For example, suppose you want to update your application and choose to go with tools that aren’t part of the prescribed environment. You can still do this, but you lose some of the efficiency of working within a more controlled environment. If you do the update outside the framework, you need to do it manually. This means that there is the risk of vendor lock-in with a PaaS. Some vendors are entering the market claiming that their software won’t lock you in.

Deploying cloud applications using PaaS

PaaS automates many aspects of the deployment lifecycle that are typically managed by IT development staff in traditional environments. Some of the deployment functions built into PaaS platforms are

  • Allocation of resources

  • Staging and testing applications

  • Installing, configuring, and securing load balancers and application servers

  • Installing, configuring, and securing databases

  • Monitoring and notification services

The standardization of PaaS deployment lifecycle services means that the services are both easier to deploy and easier to maintain consistently. In a PaaS environment, all the key deployment functions are abstracted from the developer. As a result, PaaS makes the process of updating applications once they’ve been deployed faster and more efficient.

You may be wondering what will happen if you try to change those predetermined patterns. There is a tradeoff you need to make to leverage many of the benefits of PaaS, and that tradeoff is that you may be locked into the PaaS platform tools. It’s a decision you need to make.

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