4 signs you may be ready for platform as a service

Platform as a Service (PaaS) promises cheaper computing and greater agility. But not for everyone just yet.

Moving to a Platform as a Service (PaaS) provider or environment (middleware, databases, development tools) often seems compelling, and is being aggressively pushed by vendors and analysts (and yes, the tech media) as the end-all be-all. But moving from well-entrenched on-premises software and systems that may be infused with processes and business rules may be painful. If something works, and has worked for years, why fuss with it?

Photo: Joe McKendrick

There may be a "tipping point" when the move to PaaS makes more sense than remaining with in-house systems. In a recent post, Oracle's Subramanian Iyer explains the four indicators that this tipping point is near:

Total cost of ownership is driven by hardware and perpetual licensing costs: Is your organization paying gobs of IT budget dollars in maintenance? Up-front investments in hardware and software licenses are required for in-house platforms, and these costs need updates and refreshes every couple of years -- regardless of whether they are being used or not. Whereas, at least in theory, PaaS subscriptions can be tied to actual functioning projects or requirements -- users "can subscribe to platform services only when they need them and unsubscribe if the project is delayed," says Iyer. Plus, there are no hardware costs. Iyer also argues that support costs are minimized, but it is likely that expertise needs to be retained to see ever-evolving platform infrastructure projects through.

Time to market is held up by corporate bureaucracy: Is your organization losing ground because it can't new types of products or services out the door fast enough? Launching new initiatives is often subject to approvals up and down the corporate food chain. PaaS-based services provide a shortcut to quickly get the tools and infrastructure elements needed to make innovation happen.

IT department spends more time managing assets, rather than delivering value: Is the IT department simply the "managers of things"? By moving to PaaS-based services, IT managers can focus more on improving upon the services they are delivering to their internal and external clients, versus worrying about machines and software patches. In theory, more of those worries are shifted to PaaS providers. Of course, IT ultimately remains responsible for the uptime, performance and costs of the good the PaaS vendor is sending, so those worries don't go away entirely.

It's a real pain to get new applications up and running. Does IT dive for cover when business leaders talk about taking the business in new directions? "A PaaS environment abstracts applications away from the infrastructure platform and reduces management and procurement complexity," Iyer says. The net result -- more applications of varying types can be pushed out the door at a faster rate, with fewer bugs and glitches.

Of course, it's more of a hybrid world than all-on-premises or all-cloud. The journey to well-functioning and responsive business technology will continue to involve solutions that run on local servers, and solutions that are piped down from cloud providers.

(Full disclosure: The author has conducted project work in the past 12 months for Oracle, mentioned in this post.)