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Network World - Platform as a Service is a cloud-based hosting environment for application development designed to provide a full-featured development, staging and production environment without the need for extensive in-house infrastructure.
Other benefits of PaaS include instant provisioning, easy collaboration and automatic load balancing.
We tested Red Hat’s PaaS OpenShift Online and the open source version, OpenShift Origin. Red Hat also offers an OpenShift Enterprise version, which we did not test. Overall we liked OpenShift Online better than OpenShift Origin, for its ease of setup and, surprisingly, better performance. Both products were winners in the collaboration category. In collaborative environments team developers can easily commit changes to OpenShift from different locations. This is one area where the power and ease of PaaS really comes into focus.
OpenShift Online is available either as a free plan or ‘Premium Silver plan’ (we tested the free version). All versions of OpenShift are based on RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) or Fedora for the OpenShift Origin version. On the development side, OpenShift supports numerous programming languages, frameworks and tools such as PHP, Ruby, JBoss and Python, plus database options (e.g. MySQL, MariaDB, PostreSQL to name a few) and a DIY (do it yourself) mode. OpenShift consists of two main units: the Broker, which manages logins, DNS and application states, and ‘cartridges’, which provide ‘plug-in’ functionality for various tools, databases and applications. Applications can be created using either command line or GUI-based tools. Red Hat claims if an app can run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 64bit, then it can run on OpenShift.
We first tested OpenShift Online, which was easily accessed by setting up an account at the OpenShift Online management console. The web-based management console is user-friendly, with helpful ‘tool tip’ hints, enabling us to create our account and get ready for application development in just a few minutes. After getting our account set up and navigating around the portal, we took a look at the underlying architecture. OpenShift allocates resources using what Red Hat calls ‘gears’, which come in two sizes, small and medium. A small gear provides a single unit with 512MB memory and 1GB of storage and a medium gear is 1GB each of memory and storage. The free version allows the combination of up to three gears which provide a maximum of 1.5GB memory and 3GB of disk space. The OpenShift Online Silver plan provides more firepower with up to 16 medium gears. To upgrade to the Silver plan there is a monthly platform fee of $20 plus 3, 10 or 13 cents per hour per gear above and beyond the three free small gears included with both plans.
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The management portal allows users to limit the number of gears used for an app, and also to control whether the app is automatically scaled. Scaling is controlled by a load balancing cartridge that sits between the application and the public Internet. The HAProxy cartridge sits on the first gear along with the application until the application has scaled beyond three gears, then the application is turned off on this gear, allowing the HAProxy the use of all available resources on this gear.