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Cloud basics
Platform as a Service
Size—of your service, budget, or staff—does not limit IT when the platform for custom services is as readily available and broadly deployable as the web. With Platform as a Service (PaaS), you can develop new applications or services in the cloud that do not depend on a specific platform to run, and you can make them widely available to users through the Internet. PaaS delivers cloud-based application development tools, in addition to services for testing, deploying, collaborating on, hosting, and maintaining applications.

You can also use PaaS to create multi-tenant applications—that is, services accessed by many users simultaneously. The open architecture of PaaS can support integration with legacy applications and interoperability with on-site systems—important considerations, because government operates in a mixed IT world. Interoperability gives you the flexibility to take advantage of cloud benefits while retaining data and applications on site as needed.

Seven tips to help you get started
  1. Implement a secure development life cycle methodology for your applications that are hosted in the cloud, and evaluate the cloud provider’s compliance against a similar process.
  2. Plan to scale your service. The multi-tenant architecture of PaaS offerings often comes with concurrency management, scalability, failover, and security so that you can think big when testing and developing software.
  3. Don’t get overwhelmed by the proliferation of protocols and web services available to PaaS developers. But do consider how you can integrate web services and databases to create new services.
  4. Look for providers that help you develop more custom web apps faster. For example, some PaaS environments help geographically dispersed teams collaborate and share code or include services for creating data models and policies visually.
  5. Follow the example of other agencies that are integrating web services and open datasets within PaaS environments. Create cool mashups with datasets in the cloud, such as those available from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or from the Microsoft Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI), a set of software assets designed to help agencies bring useful data to the public.
  6. Remember that you can lease capacity as needed and use PaaS to test and debug high-memory or compute-intensive features in the cloud regardless of whether you deploy your services in the cloud.
  7. Compare how well vendor tools enable portability across clouds. Do they support application interactions and provide resources and policies for service interoperability? Some providers may not allow you to take your application and put it on another platform.

PaaS in action
  • The City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, made access to public data easy for citizens and developers with its Open Data Catalogue. Created in a cloud-based software development environment, it makes data accessible in a programmatic manner with open, industry-standard protocols and application programming interfaces (APIs).
  • For application testing, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) emulates field conditions using a cloud platform that the department leases only as long as needed.
  • The U.S. Office of Naval Research is testing a cloud-based platform for mobile geocasting, a way of broadcasting locations in real time by capturing GPS data from a cell phone. The data is transcoded in real time and displayed as animation over a map to show routes and motion as they occur.
  • Local governments in India can provide needed e-government applications without additional IT resources using a hosted data center. The provider, Microsoft partner Persistent Systems, delivers these high-availability services in the cloud using a Windows Azure data center.
PaaS can help agencies with:
  • Collaborative software development projects that involve multiple agencies.
  • Applications that can be shared by many users simultaneously.
  • Creating government-only social networks or cross-agency communities.
  • Porting on-premise line-of-business applications to the cloud.
  • Deploying web services quickly.
  • Creating mashups of public data to meet federal mandates for transparency.

Microsoft offerings for PaaS
Microsoft offers a variety of online services to address your agency’s most pressing needs:

The Windows Azure platform is the flexible, familiar environment in which you can create cloud applications and services without infrastructure limits.

  • Windows Azure delivers on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications through Microsoft data centers.

  • Microsoft SQL Azure Database is a fully relational cloud database solution built on SQL Server that offers highly available, scalable, multi-tenant database services.

  • AppFabric simplifies connecting to cloud services and on-premise applications.

  • Microsoft Codename "Dallas" makes it easy to find, purchase, and manage premium data subscriptions. You can consume the data from any platform, application, or business workflow.

Bing Maps for Enterprise combines complete viewing options—full-color imagery, aerial views, and three-dimensional terrain and city models—with mapping, location, and search to support open government projects.
Microsoft .NET helps developers build applications targeting the Windows platform by providing some common building blocks that make it easier to write cloud-based applications, helping to get them up and running quickly.
Learn more about PaaS
CLOUD BASICS SERIES
Entering the cloud

Get the basic information that agencies need to consider for cloud computing.

Government benefits in the cloud

Learn how agencies can benefit from moving into the cloud.

Security in the cloud

Explore security issues around cloud computing and ways to avert them.

SaaS

Deliver applications and services to users—regardless of their location—with Software as a Service (SaaS).

PaaS

Benefit from a cloud operating environment where you don’t have to manage the infrastructure, with Platform as a Service (PaaS).

IaaS

Rent data center capacity as needed, rather than owning and running hardware, with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Private cloud

Discover if a private cloud—with dedicated resources, additional control, and customization—is right for you.