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May 2022
5 min. read

5 deciding factors when choosing a PaaS

Good Path

It’s 2030, Platform as a Service is now the default deployment platform for web apps. Ease of use and shared good practices made this model superior to the once-touted IaaS abstraction. Competition in the PaaS landscape is still fierce as the hundreds of vendors building upon public cloud providers push feature after feature.

Among this “primordial soup” as Darwin put it, still no clear winners emerged, no Docker for container, or Kubernetes for orchestrator. This uncertainty makes 99% of developers doubt their choice, forcing them into conservative, albeit uncomfortable positions.

Fear not, as we are a few years ahead of these dreadful events, and here we lay down for you the 5 important questions that separate future-proof PaaS from the rest. And above all, identify which are worth your time. 

If “read the docs” is required to get started, it’s not “simple”

PaaS first impression lasts, from the sign-up process to the first deployment, any hesitation counts double. We developers have a limited frustration budget. Once it’s depleted, the tab closes and who knows when we will get back, if ever. So PaaS must be dead simple to connect to your code, via Git or a Docker registry.

Simple deployment: it’s just one click away! With no need for any infrastructure or configuration management skills or knowledge, you can deploy your application straight away to production (or staging) environment.

Once connected, the PaaS is expected to “get it”, because we are in an ecosystem of shared good practices. Ecosystems of languages are mature enough nowadays. It became pretty clear how to manage dependencies, how to deploy new versions, how to connect to external services, etc. 

If you were to hand over the app to a fellow developer, you would expect them to figure it out, and not nag you with basic questions like: How do you build it? Where is the configuration? Is it compatible with Postgres or does it require SQLite? At Artifakt, we already implement sane defaults. That means no chain of redundant configuration screens – how to build, how to deploy, where to store data, etc. One screen ought to be enough.

Community-driven, Communication-bound

As the saying goes among DevOps practitioners, “people over process”.  Once you invest into a Platform for developers, what happens when you run into issues? Are there people to talk to? Or are you another captive customer waiting, while the company is busy cramming other leads in their sales funnel?

Developers want direct relations, peer to peer conversations about their immediate needs. The more intermediates, the less fun. Ideally, any modern PaaS needs to get out of the way and let developers build on top of their product.

In other words, pay attention to the communication channels: must we open another ticket? Or can we chime in a channel for a quick chat?

Another lesson that other PaaS learned the hard way, is the feedback test: how long does it take  to push feedback or report a small frustration? At Artifakt, we are always one slack-message away from our users. Ensuring quick and informal feedback is at the heart of our culture. Go ahead, and take a look at the Artifakt Roadmap.

Trust starts with “Say what you do, do what you say”

Listening is mandatory, but outbound signals are also a great sign of a healthy PaaS environment. When shopping for a Platform as a Service, how clear is their public roadmap? Does it include bug fixes as well as shiny new features? Is it updated on a regular basis?

Trust is like love: “There is no trust, only signs of trust”. Just like security by obfuscation is an antipattern, developers would not stick to innovations in a black-box mode, where surprises pop from time to time.

The community needs to build on the long term, months and years from today. Real businesses are not hackathons, they engage resources and rarely rebuild from scratch, they expect long-term support and roadmap stability.

A special note on infrastructure: boring is beautiful. Winning PaaS will leave big changes and breaking changes for others. Developers and decision makers thrive the less shiny, the more stable, and the “business as usual” platforms. 

We got your back(up): data, security, vulnerabilities

As developers, some things just get in our way. Who has the time to turn into a Database Administrator, between a hotfix and another new feature? Is there even such a thing as a developer that codes, deploys and scans code in production to detect new vulnerabilities? Well it simply does not exist, and if it did, this would be at the cost of a huge knowledge charge.

As a busy software developer, – 👋 hey you fullstack crowd out there –  any grain of sand can grip the day and put a halt to code flow. And we know how hard it is to actually “enter the flow” of coding! 

A friendly PaaS will let you focus on code, while keeping you up to date on production events, and taking care of the underlying infrastructure movements. As best-selling author Stephen Covey’s puts it, there are 3 zones of interaction:

  • code aka your control zone
  • production deployments aka the influence zones
  • infrastructure aka the concern zone

Instant win vs “making a bet”

Moving to a PaaS should feel like an instant win, like finding the missing piece of your puzzle. 

Compare this to IaaS vendors where abstractions require heavy investments, most of it not directly related to business, leaving opportunities aside to manage low-level infrastructure. 

PaaS on the contrary is not this liability that pumps resources out, but a clear asset that makes everything easier and powerful.

Our typical metric at Artifakt is to complete onboarding in days and not weeks or months like IaaS projects. This is how much we value the Developer Experience!

Conclusion

The PaaS ecosystem is so vast, with dozens of opinionated platforms on how to run code in production. It’s very hard to pick the right platform on the first attempt. Our vision at Artifakt is to be the approved platform for 99% of developers. It means making life easier for everyone involved – developers, designers and clients.

It also means being trusted by decision-makers by building in public around the good practices shared in our industry.

So here is the ultimate qualification checklist for your future PaaS, straight from the horse’s mouth:

Choosing a PaaS
  1. Shares a developer mindset
  2. Actively listens to multi-channel feedback
  3. Shows a steady and predictable progress
  4. Builds safe processes around code to protect data
  5. Demonstrates a very quick Return On Investment after first weeks

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