How to Choose a PaaS Vendor

Chalk up experience, usability, development support and security in the pros column when you’re evaluating Platform as a Service vendors as potential partners.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides the opportunity to develop, test and deploy applications without investment into infrastructure and development tools such as middleware and database management. But, when a client is looking for the best PaaS offering for their business, which one of the myriad choices will you recommend?

Sathish Balakrishnan, senior director, product management, OpenShift Online at Red Hat, advises evaluating PaaS vendors based on the following four criteria: 

1. Enterprise Experience 

Balakrishnan says a good place to start when vetting PaaS vendors is with their history. Find out how long the vendor has provided a PaaS solution or whether they have experience with a similar managed version. It’s also smart to consider the vendor’s track record with uptime, support and customer satisfaction.

In addition to the PaaS vendor’s ability to deliver a solution that will meet  your clients’ needs, Balakrishnan advises evaluating its partner program for managed services providers (MSPs). Does the PaaS vendor offer a model that works with your business, complements the skill set of your internal resources, and will give you the outcomes you expect? Also consider the investment the PaaS vendor makes in partner success, product development and the vendor’s outlook for the future.

2. Infrastructure/Operations

 As you are evaluating a vendor’s PaaS solution, it’s essential to ensure that it’s easy to use and manage across all infrastructure footprints, in addition to ensuring the technology stack fits your client’s use case.

Balakrishnan points out that you also need to carefully consider whether you’ll choose a vendor with a proprietary solution or one that has built their PaaS solution based on open standards. A proprietary solution can result in vendor lock-in, requiring that you use only the vendor’s products and hosting to run applications. Open source solutions, on the other hand, provide greater interoperability and freedom to choose from multiple cloud platforms to run the service.

3. Developers and DevOps

Balakrishnan recommends that MSPs ask these questions about a PaaS vendor’s solution that pertain to developing on the platform:

  • Does the platform support all major programming languages?
  • Does the PaaS platform support single click templates to build and deploy applications using preferred programming languages, frameworks, databases, etc.?
  • Does the PaaS platform support both relational and NoSQL databases?
  • Does the PaaS platform support Java middleware for enterprise applications?

He also suggests researching whether the PaaS platform supports DevOps teams with features that enhance collaboration among the developers and other users, standardized workflows that streamline the application deployment process, and deployment from source code, binary and container images.

4. Security

MSPs also need to ensure that the PaaS solution they provide for their clients is secure. Balakrishnan says to research whether the offering has proven itself as a secure model. “Has this security remained intact through several released versions of the platform?” he asks.

You’ll also want to drill down deeper, finding the answers to questions such as:

  • Does the platform support a secure, enterprise-grade operating system for nodes? Does the vendor ensure that the necessary operating system security is enforced with stricter limits on permissions and other access controls?
  • Does the platform integrate with authentication systems like LDAP, OpenID and other OAuth based systems? Does it allow complete access control based on an organization’s policies?

Where Does Price Figure In?

Price is a consideration when vetting any technology solution; however, you can’t choose a PaaS solution based on price alone. Few PaaS offerings are will make it easy for an apples-to-apples comparison — they vary in design, features, complementary products and services. It’s more important to find options that address your clients’ needs, focusing on the value they will provide, rather than basing your decision solely on the PaaS solution with the lowest price.