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Tuesday, 25 November 2014 10:28

From IaaS to PaaS to RAD PaaS: The latest cloud innovation stands on the shoulders of giants

Posted By  Johan den Haan

Johan den Haan explains how rapid application delivery platform as a service RAD PaaS will fundamentally transform enterprise app delivery and why it will do for your business what the App Store did for become as useful as the iOS app store

Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” What Newton meant was that he was able to make profound discoveries about astronomy because he was working in the light of findings made by other scientists. In other words, each new advancement is built upon what came before it.  

Like astronomy, cloud computing is an area of constant discovery and innovation. Every day, we wake up to a dazzling array of new products and technologies, all under the umbrella of cloud computing. But what’s not often recognised in the relentless march forward is the contributions of others that made subsequent advancements possible.

You see, today’s cloud architecture is all about “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Advancements in one layer of the stack—more specifically, abstraction and automation—have paved the way for innovation in the next. We’ve seen this process of abstracting away from underlying technology through automation happen several times already, from hardware to IaaS to PaaS.

This article will focus on the next cloud innovation—Rapid Application Delivery (RAD) PaaS—and how it builds upon the advancements of IaaS and PaaS to fundamentally transform enterprise app delivery. But first, let’s take a short trip through the cloud stack to see how RAD PaaS came to stand of the shoulders of giants.

From Hardware to IaaS: Virtualising Infrastructure

In the end, every application—even SaaS apps—runs on physical hardware in a data centre. Nowadays, most hardware is virtualised. IaaS abstracts the logical view of servers and pools them into universal compute resources that users buy on-demand. This has simplified procurement of infrastructure, reduced ongoing maintenance and changed the accounting from capital expenditures to operating expenses.

Infrastructure virtualisation also lays the foundation for all of the scalability and flexibility advantages cloud computing provides. In fact, most PaaS and SaaS products internally use some form of virtualised infrastructure in order to provide flexible services.

From IaaS to PaaS: Simplifying Deployment

Abstraction and automation at the PaaS layer have made application deployment a one-click or one-command experience. Developers can just upload their code without having to worry about setting up appropriate test or production environments through some other IT team that is managing the data centre. Thus, PaaS makes deployment a self-service experience, which eliminates hand-offs and improves the productivity and scalability of the engineering team.

Here’s the thing, though: PaaS only marginally improves an existing paradigm (coding). PaaS makes it easy to deploy code once it’s been written, but doesn’t address the core issue: how to make it radically easier to build applications in the first place. With traditional programming still as sluggish as ever, PaaS therefore isn’t delivering the speed and agility gains needed to keep pace with growing application demands.

From PaaS to RAD PaaS: Accelerating Development

The latest innovation in the cloud stack, Rapid Application Delivery (RAD) PaaS, is changing the paradigm to deliver the most significant business impact. Simply put, RAD PaaS is a cloud service for designing, building, deploying and managing custom business applications. Building upon the streamlined provisioning and deployment capabilities that are nearing ubiquity among cloud platforms, RAD PaaS takes a major leap forward by adding abstraction and automation to the app development process.

The transformative power of RAD PaaS comes from bringing together the new world of deployment with a new way of building apps – a visual, model-driven development (MDD) technology that abstracts away from programming code. This is often also called “Model-Driven aPaaS.” Because visual models are used to define the different elements of an application (e.g. data model, application and process logic, user interface), MDD enables business users to easily understand functionality and even build apps themselves, while providing developers the flexibility to extend models for specific technical needs.

And that’s just the start. RAD PaaS further accelerates productivity by offering reusable templates, widgets and application components in a community App Store. In this sense, building apps becomes more like visually “orchestrating” the necessary building blocks. Developers rarely start a new application from scratch and they don’t have to reinvent the wheel for common functionality used across projects.

The Business Value of RAD PaaS

While the demand for custom applications has never been higher, traditional code-based development approaches simply can’t keep pace. A single seamlessly integrated cloud platform that supports the entire application lifecycle and allows developers and business users to effectively collaborate by visually designing, building and deploying apps helps slash project timelines from months to weeks or even days. This time to market advantage is crucial for organisations struggling to keep pace with rising business demands, particularly as they look to innovate and differentiate themselves in competitive markets.

The value of RAD PaaS can be summarised as follows:

  • Greater IT-Business Collaboration – History has shown that improving developer productivity alone has only marginal impact on project success. RAD PaaS brings IT and the business together, fostering more iterative, collaborative development cycles that increase quality and outcomes.
  • Faster Time to Market – RAD PaaS allows teams to build applications rapidly, often ten times faster than traditional programming methods. Moreover, seeing as how markets and business needs today can change on a dime, they’re crucial to accommodating constant change.
  • Enabler of Innovation – By accelerating project timelines and improving outcomes, RAD PaaS unlocks greater efficiencies and revenues, resulting in a cascading effect. The value becomes staggering when multiplied over dozens of apps. Suddenly, IT is in the enviable position of helping the company to grow, innovate and differentiate itself.

RAD PaaS: the iOS for enterprise app delivery

Apple completely rethought music delivery, but multiple technologies had to come together to make this possible: iTunes, an integrated App Store full of content, ubiquitous Internet, solid state storage and  smaller, faster processors. Similarly, RAD PaaS is transforming enterprise app delivery by integrating visual model-driven development, one-click cloud deployment, a complete technology stack, content from an App Store and more.

This innovation is possible with the help of advancements like IaaS and PaaS that came before it. By standing on the shoulders of giants, RAD PaaS is unlocking the strategic value of app delivery: helping organisations to innovate and compete.

About the author

Johan den Haan is the CTO at Mendix, where he leads the company’s overall technical strategy and research & product development teams. Johan speaks regularly at technology events and is a renowned blogger on a range of topics, including PaaS, model-driven development, scrum, cloud computing and software engineering.

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