Maybe you are lost in the unfriendly acronyms of the various cloud computing services and want a refresher?
SaaS stands for Software as a Service, and is a way to deliver software to end-users over the Web. The application is basically designed for the end-user, and he uses it just like he would use Gmail, going to his browser and typing a url that is the same for all clients… A flagship example of SaaS is Salesforce.com.
IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a Service. Unlike SaaS, IaaS does not relate in any way to the end-user. In this mode, it's basically the underlying architecture which is provided as a service to system administrators and devops folks. Instead of installing hardware and software on top of the hardware on their premises or in hosting data centers, they use an existing infrastructure from the cloud that is delivered 'as a service'. The leading company in that business, and the one who made this revolution happen, is Amazon, via its branch AWS. The original intention was to monetize left over infrastructure from their main amazon.com business… What a success!
Then there is PaaS, which stands for Platform as a Service. PaaS lives in between IaaS and SaaS. PaaS is basically a way to deliver developers an environment to do their job without having to deal with the underlying stack. No database to create, no servers to install, no web servers to optimize.
PaaS is probably the approach that has taken off the least, probably because it's very complex. Some players contributed to raise interest in this approach, such as Springsource for the Java stack, acquired by VMWare, or Heroku, as well as Google who is definitely playing in the PaaS arena.
So if you're interested in SaaS, you are probably a business user or an end-user. If you're into IaaS, high chance you are a sysadmin or a devops. And if you're into PaaS, you are a true developer, one who wants to focus on his code and not on the rest.
When you describe it like I just did, it feels fairly clear, though we should keep in mind there is some serious overlap, and lines are not always crystal clear. For instance, Salesforce is definitely SaaS, but they also cover some sort of PaaS with their force.com development platform. Similarly, AWS is definitely playing in the SaaS field as well when bringing into their portfolio things such as collaboration and document management services.
Which flavor of cloud computing for the modern CMS?
At eZ, we build the modern CMS, the CMS for the web and beyond, the CMS of today and tomorrow, so of course, we care about cloud computing. So where does eZ stand in cloud computing?
Let's start with SaaS. Well, SaaS is not directly the way we want to approach the cloud at eZ. SaaS can work with some flavors of CMS. For instance, Squarespace is a fantastic website builder, it's delivered as SaaS, and it's a perfect fit. The difference is that it's mostly a tool dedicated to editors, mostly small business and individuals. At eZ, we serve enterprises who are into their digital transformation. They typically do more than websites. They don't just need an editorial UI to create content. They need a platform to build features and design digital experiences. It's because they need to build - ie. develop - that SaaS will not be the right option. The CMS for them needs to come with a development platform, with development tools, and a development workflow as efficient and agile as possible.
What about IaaS. Well, as defined, IaaS is infrastructure, and in that respect, it's a perfect candidate to "host and run" eZ projects. As a matter of fact, today the vast majority of eZ projects are mostly running on IaaS, and a good share of them must be running on AWS. We believe it's an option that makes a lot of sense. We ourselves use IaaS a lot for some of our services. It's also what we make possible by investing in supporting container technologies such as Docker. With containers, you can build your own infrastructure from all those bricks, and automate many of the operations involved in building and running an infrastructure.
Now, what about PaaS? Well, on paper, it's probably the most promising approach for eZ. It's the one that will not even ask you to build your infrastructure, the one that will let you focus your resources on pure design and development, basically maximizing your investment. Any member of the C-suite should take note of this, and ultimately, any developer who really cares about delivering value should realize this too (of course, the developers who like to play with the plumbing might be disappointed, but that is another story…)
So PaaS is the best of the best on paper, in our opinion. But which PaaS service would really fulfill all the requirements of a platform such as eZ? The perfect PaaS could be the best friend of an eZ developer, the one that doesn't deliver what it takes could also turn into his worst enemy. And that's where the issue was: it was hard to find a PaaS provider that would check all the boxes. But things are changing...
Platform.sh, a modern PaaS for Symfony, PHP and eZ applications
In less than two years, Platform.sh, a cloud technology start-up that spun off from a Drupal-based e-commerce solution-Commerce Guys-has developed an innovative PaaS service that fits really well with Symfony and PHP applications. So well that it has been adopted by players such as Magento and Orange. More than just a hosting service, Platform.sh changes the way you run your whole development workflow, eventually letting you focus solely on development and providing you more in terms of agility and efficiency.
This is so close to a lot of the ideas we try to implement within our software platform at eZ, so it's been only natural for us to give it a try and start collaborating with the good folks at Platform.sh. As you may have heard, we recently formed a technology partnership with them and we now offer eZ Platform PaaS. It's very simple for developers to use for hosting and deploying eZ Platform and eZ Enterprise projects, and you can sign up for a free 30-day trial from our developer hub, ezplatform.com.
Knowing that PHP runs more than 80% of the dynamic web today and Symfony is becoming the defacto standard for serious application development on PHP, there is no doubt that Platform.sh has a nice future ahead of itself.