PaaS vs Serverless Computing: Which One Should You Adopt?


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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

PaaS and serverless computing both offer opportunities to streamline your app development, but which one is better suited to your unique requirements?

Article 5 Minutes
PaaS vs Serverless Computing: Which One Should You Adopt?

If you're looking to create new software for your business, there are a range of tools available to help with this. One popular option over the last few years has been cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). However, this is increasingly being challenged by another emerging technology known as serverless computing.

Each offers their own benefits when it comes to making coding as streamlined and responsive as possible, but the two tools aren't interchangeable.

Here’s what you need to know about each of these tools when it comes to making a decision between them and identifying which will be best for your business.

What is PaaS?

PaaS is a cloud-based service that provides your business with all the computing resources you need to develop applications quickly and easily. Put simply, the operating system (OS) is run and managed by your service provider and you create the app to run on it - you don’t have to update the OS or make sure it’s stable and running. Examples include the popular Google App Engine.

They offer services such as virtual servers, storage, network infrastructure and system management. It also provides middleware, BI services and database organization. This frees you up to focus on your business and helps you deploy your newly developed apps quickly and efficiently.

PaaS offers a number of key benefits over traditional platforms for software development. These include:

  • Simple, cheaper management of resources
  • Reduced workload and greater automation support
  • Increased security measures
  • Quicker development and deployment roadmap
  • Less monitoring and oversight required

Understanding serverless computing

Serverless technology is designed to remove or reduce the need for management and configuration requirements from your development workflow. You simply write the individual functions and deploy them straight away, without any added infrastructure building or software work. Some people have described it as the next logical progression from IaaS and PaaS.

These solutions come in two main offerings - Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) and Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS). Of these, FaaS is the most widely used solution as it offers high scalability and a great deal of choice for developers.

With FaaS, users are able to execute code in stateless containers, according to predefined events. This provides developers with a platform to easily develop and deploy code as it functions without having to deal with any infrastructure configurations.

BaaS, meanwhile, enables developers to focus only on the frontend, with most backend functionalities, including hosting, database management and authentications, handled by the cloud provider. In this form of serverless computing, an API or a software development kit is needed to act as the bridge between the user-managed frontend and the backend services.

The advantages of serverless technology

Serverless computing sees your cloud provider take over the management of all the additional functions, including availability needs, bandwidth and scaling. And because it's based on a scaling model, you only pay for what you use.

This allows you to deploy functions or services directly, without the need for any infrastructure or software configuration. It means you don't have to worry about issues such as scaling, availability or bandwidth, as this is all taken care of for you.

As with PaaS, you can spend less time managing and more time developing the programs and apps you need to build your business. Put simply, with serverless computing you don’t even have to create the app - only the functions it would perform.

PaaS v serverless: Which is right for you?

On the surface, PaaS and serverless computing may look quite similar, as they both keep the entire backend away from developers. But it’s very important to pick the right one, as there are several key differences, including scalability, startup time, price and tooling.

Learn more: Deploying PaaS? Here are 6 Things to Bear in Mind

In general, PaaS is considered to offer users better control of their deployment environment. However, while these tools do provide scalability, the users will have to configure the scaling parameters. Serverless solutions, on the other hand, will automatically scale depending on the demand.

Consider the financial differences

Another major difference in the two services is how their pricing works. Serverless computing functions on a pay as you go style model, while scaling up is very precise and happens in real-time. You can also scale down just as fast, which means it’s great for companies that need to remain flexible.

PaaS, on the other hand, is a more fixed-rate service. You buy a plan in advance and the provider supplies a set amount of computing power, which can be cheaper in the long run and far more predictable. If your needs don’t change much year to year, it can be a better choice.

Comparing speed and functionality

Another consideration is the speed at which you can go from development to launch. Built-in applications can be up and running in no time on both, with serverless applications in particular able to be activated almost instantly. However, PaaS typically offers more control over the core app itself.

A serverless architecture uses third party services, which can lead some people to be concerned about vendor lock-in. This can be easily managed by choosing non-proprietary components, and it's best to double-check with your prospective provider how they handle this issue. If you ever need to move your services, you don’t want to lose all your hard work.

Serverless computing allows you to build individual functions easily without having to program a full app, while PaaS gives you more overall control. Serverless lets you dial up and down your service use easily, while PaaS is more predictable and often cheaper.

PaaS is also a tried and tested concept, so there are a lot of resources and best practices already available for you to refer back to, whereas serverless is a more up-and-coming technology. It's worth considering which is best for your business, as while they both have unique strengths, they aren’t interchangeable for every application.

Further Reading

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