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aPaaS: What Is It and What Can It Do For Your Business

Appian Contributor
March 16, 2017

Application development platforms have rapidly gained momentum in recent years. Businesses, facing mounting pressure to deliver proprietary apps and services in response to the consumerization of IT movement, have found themselves needing to transform around digital technologies. Creating proprietary apps and services has emerged as a primary solution here, but the complexity of developing apps has held innovation back.

Enter application Platform-as-a-Service (aPaaS) tools. aPaaS technologies provide a solid, cloud-based foundation for the development and deployment elements of app creation, establishing a level of stability that empowers organizations to not only generate new apps quickly, but get them into production efficiently.

Application Platform-as-a-Service (aPaaS). Ultimate flexibility.ª

PaaS tools have gradually gained momentum in the cloud landscape in recent years, and aPaaS capabilities have helped launch renewed growth. A Gartner study found that the application infrastructure and middleware market experienced revenue increases of 7.8 percent in 2015 when accounting through constant currency terms. This figure drops to just 0.1 percent year-over-year in terms of raw revenue, but the constant currency growth comes largely as organizations invested in PaaS technology.

"aPaaS technologies provide a cloud-based foundation for app creation."

Fabrizio Biscotti, research director at Gartner, pointed out that PaaS systems are driving the vast majority of the growth in the larger AIM software segment.

"The PaaS segment showed the most impressive growth, not just in the AIM market but across the entire enterprise software market," said Biscotti. "Integration PaaS grew 55 percent in U.S. dollars, while application PaaS grew 40 percent, despite headwinds from the appreciating U.S. dollar."

The popularity of aPaaS solutions is clear, but let's look at why.

The underlying movement toward app platforms

The rise of the app platform has its roots in the move toward agile development. From there, it expands through the consumerization of IT, the emergence shadow IT and the broad enterprise movement to improve customer experiences. Taken together, this progression has led to the movement to digital transformation.

Agile development: Agile began to rise as organizations faced tight app development schedules and time-to-market deadlines that forced them to look for better ways to get quality solutions out to production environments. To some extent, agile is also the result of the connected world, as the ability to easily update apps via the web has fueled agile's growth.

Enterprise Application Platforms: Create apps that address your toughest challengesª

At their core, agile development projects involve dividing apps into clearly defined batches of code that are parsed out and built in iterations. This allows for more contained and focused testing so that, when these bits of code are put together, organizations have an app built to specification much more quickly than if they had to create and test the entire thing at once.

As agile gained momentum, a culture of constantly refining apps and services in light of end-user needs began to emerge. In many ways, this was the beginning of the consumerization of IT. It marked a time when user requirements started to dictate technical capabilities instead of having technical limitations force users to work in limited ways.

aPaaS is changing how organizations approach development.aPaaS is changing how organizations approach development.

The consumerization of IT: As agile rose, separate forces in the cloud and mobile worlds started making powerful technology accessible anytime, anywhere. This created an operational climate in which business users expected the same degree of responsiveness from their IT departments that they would get from consumer app or service (of course, those solutions don't always have the same security and regulatory issues to keep in mind).

Agile is fast, but not fast enough to keep up with these kinds of demands. As a result, many business users began searching beyond the IT walls to shop for apps that would meet their needs. In response, companies built out app and service catalogs, to try and prevent complete data sprawl and minimize risk.

Shadow IT: The problem of users subscribing to apps as they see fit eventually led to the rise of shadow IT, a situation in which business users subscribe to services without IT oversight, creating financial, data management, security and regulatory blind spots that businesses couldn't tolerate.

Why the rise of citizen development' signals the end of shadow ITª

Digital transformation: By the time shadow IT had taken hold,organizations were witnessing an operational climate in which internal users and customers were expecting to be able to do everything digitally, and the initial speed and responsiveness that began with agile had escalated to an extreme. This is where aPaaS technologies come in.

Using aPaaS to keep up with users

A ComputerWeekly report pointed out that app platforms are gaining momentum as organizations must create apps that will work on a wide range of platforms while keeping up with the demands of end users.

"Traditional development methods aren't going to keep up with demands for digital transformation."

This complexity underpins the rise of aPaaS systems. Essentially, traditional development methods, even with agile, aren't going to keep up with demands for digital transformation while incorporating multiple operating systems and a variety of device formats. Businesses need to democratize and streamline development to keep up with shifting demands, and aPaaS tools make this possible.

The Forrester Wave: Low-Code Development Platformsª

Through low-code, modular development systems, aPaaS solutions enable users to create their own apps within the platform, even if they don't have a great deal of technical knowledge. A graphical user interface simplifies the development tasks, and process management tools working in the background control data workflows and give IT the authorization management functions needed to maintain secure operations in line with regulatory laws.

Digital transformation may come out of technological trends that made the enterprise look a bit like the Wild West, but aPaaS services have emerged to provide much-needed structure without sacrificing end-user freedom.