Today, traditional business models are being disrupted by digital processes at a much faster rate than ever before.

One of the most influential outcomes of this disruption is that start-ups are now able to build highly efficient applications at such low costs that legacy enterprises are being caught flat-footed as they try to keep up with constantly changing business environments.

These ultra-efficient start-ups are able to achieve such speed, agility, and cost effectiveness through their use of cloud technology.

And it is cloud platform services, otherwise known as platform-as-a-service (PaaS), that are playing the major disruptive role when looking at the function of application development.

As with other cloud services you are likely familiar with, PaaS is offered via a cloud service provider’s hosted infrastructure, and it can be delivered through public, private, or hybrid clouds.

This enables organisations to develop, run, and manage applications via a platform supplied to them by their cloud service provider, negating the need to invest in the expensive infrastructure that software development processes typically require.

PaaS solutions provide both cost advantages and an increased speed to deployment. And another key advantage is that the standardisation of workloads provides more flexibility in choosing where to host the workloads.

Born-on-the-cloud start-ups have demonstrated that trying multiple approaches in the product development life cycle increases the likelihood of success, and PaaS is the perfect tool for enabling such a strategy.

Indeed, the low costs involved encourage enterprises to leverage PaaS to develop minimally viable products without the high levels of risk associated with large investments of time and money.

In light of this, IDC predicts that, by the end of 2018, 90% of IT projects will be rooted in the principles of experimentation, speed, and quality.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, PaaS users tend to be from the application development field and most choose the technology due to the high flexibility it provides and the support for multiple languages.

Application release cycles

It’s easy to see why these benefits are so highly regarded, as being able to match appropriate technologies with unique business problems is critical to delivering the most appropriate solutions to end users.

Beyond flexibility, our research suggests that PaaS users also value the technology’s ability to enable shorter application release cycles, as well as the way that DevOps capabilities deliver value to the overall business and help improve overall line-of-business and IT collaboration.

So, what are the major differences between public cloud and private cloud deployments of PaaS?

When PaaS solutions are designed and offered as private cloud solutions, IT assets are typically owned and managed by the customer (although, there are models available for on-premise-based private cloud remote management by professional services firms) and dedicated to a single customer.

When PaaS is offered as public cloud, customers use shared runtime platform assets, while management of the platform transitions from the customer to the service provider and the use of platform capabilities is presumed to be shared.

Public cloud PaaS is packaged as configurable, turnkey offerings sold directly via IP owners/providers, cloud OEM partners/service providers, systems integrators, and a variety of other mechanisms.

When offered with underlying infrastructure, PaaS frequently includes access to system infrastructure capabilities such as workload automation, scheduling, change and configuration management, storage management, security, and network management.

PaaS solutions delivered with the ability to be installed in a customer data centre are often chosen by very large organisations due to regulatory and security concerns.

This implementation is often called private or on-premise PaaS and is typically a standard offering to developers looking to optimise their infrastructure and speed up application delivery.

Open source technologies

An area of particular interest among enterprises is the ability to rapidly change applications to meet dynamic business needs, and we are increasingly seeing businesses across the region leverage PaaS to deliver this capability.

Traditionally, enterprises adopting new technology were always concerned with lock-in to specific vendors. However, open source technologies have reduced friction in migrating from one cloud to another while further reducing costs in leveraging platform technologies.

So, the benefits are clear to see, with PaaS providing organisations with all the tools they need to build, deploy, and change applications in a cloud-enabled environment and at a cost-effective price.

As such, it is incumbent upon businesses to start leveraging emerging cloud technologies such as PaaS to stay ahead of the competition; by ignoring this revolution and simply standing still, they are at grave risk of being left behind.

The columnist is group vice-president and regional managing director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at global ICT market intelligence and advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC). He can be contacted via Twitter @JyotiIDC. Content for this week’s feature leverages global, regional, and local research studies undertaken by IDC.