In the past, if you wanted to build an app, you had to also invest in the physical servers that would develop your software, not to mention the additional time and cost to set them up and manage them. If you wanted to start a tech-based business, you had to not only buy most of the physical equipment required to run your application but also consider space, cooling and ventilation for your hardware.
Today, it has become even costlier to host your own servers, thanks to increased internet traffic and high user consumption of rich digital media. On the other hand, cloud-based servers can reduce your infrastructure costs by as much as 80% while promising up to 98% uptime every month.
However, there are various types of cloud-based services available to eliminate traditional hosting costs across wide range of platforms, and it can be confusing to figure out the right one for your application. As such, it’s essential to understand the definitions, advantages and disadvantages of each type of cloud service.
The Big Three Cloud-based Platform Services
What used to be an in-house concern has grown into a full-fledged section of the IT world, and requires a working knowledge of the three key components of cloud-based application development.
The SaaS model is the most light-weight approach to app development. It involves leveraging and linking together existing applications instead of building every component from scratch. Any application that uses the Facebook API to authenticate logins, Google Apps or even the Gravatar system, is an example of SaaS.
The main advantages of the SaaS model are rapid application development and lower costs, since you’re building upon existing app components. However, since you’re relying on third-party tools it can limit your ability to customize your application. You can go with the SaaS model when you’re starting out. As your app gains traction, you can evaluate other platforms.
PaaS offers a middle ground between customization and ease-of-use. For example, services such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services provide a middleware platform for development. What it means is that their platform gives you an environment and all the tools required to build your app, and also provides a hosting service that you can utilize to host your app. This would typically include the operating system, database software, web servers, execution environment for programming languages. They’re a great option to streamline your development process without giving up any control over your app’s components.
IaaS is basically leasing the company’s infrastructure to develop your app. If you’re looking to control and customize every aspect of your app development, then this is the right choice for it. In addition to what’s available in PaaS systems, you’ll get access to virtual machines, disk image library, firewalls, load balancers, IP addresses, file and block storage, and more.
In this case, you start with a simple virtual machine with an operating system, and will have to install and configure everything on your own. If you have experienced developers, only then you should go for IaaS, else you might lose time configuring stuff when you could have quickly built your app.
Middleware: The finer points
Although speed of development seems to be the only advantage of middleware platforms, there are many more benefits of developing your app on a cloud-based platform.
First of all, you can tweak, scale and test your application on servers built to handle real-world stress loads and scale dynamically. This provides amazing developer insights about real-world scenarios that might not be evident if you’re hosting your own servers, mainly because of high costs of maintenance and upkeep.
Developing in an IaaS environment might be a little harder than simply deploying your app within the confines of a PaaS environment. For example, you won’t have many launch-day surprises when you’re using a system that has already been extensively tested and understood.
However, it’s important to note that these platforms are designed to work with only the traditional programming languages and tools. For example, their sample to deploy a Django App to Amazon is a good indicator of what you need to know to be able to work with one of these platforms.
So, although these middleware platforms take away the cost and time to host your own servers and manage them, it’s important to understand and look into their confines before you move your app to a cloud-based platform, such as security breaches and expansion costs.
Wrapping it Up
Although cloud-based platforms are clearly more beneficial and cost-effective than traditional hosting services, the key is to carefully evaluate each type of middleware platform to see which one fits your requirements. If you need to quickly build an app and take it to market, go for SaaS-based platforms. If you need customization capabilities and have skilled developers in your team, try out PaaS-based platforms. It will allow you to create a custom-built app without having to manage your own infrastructure. If you have an experienced team and need to control and configure your entire infrastructure, then IaaS is the answer.