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A platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provides infrastructure and a software layer on which a web application is deployed. Running your web application from a PaaS removes the need to know as much about the underlying servers, operating system, web server, and often the WSGI server.

Note: If you are not interested in deploying to a PaaS you can move ahead to the WSGI servers section.

The PaaS layer defines how the application accesses resources such as computing time, files, and external services. The PaaS provides a higher-level abstraction for working with computing resources than deploying an application to a server or IaaS.

A PaaS makes deployment and operations easier because it forces the developer to conform applications to the PaaS architecture. For example, Heroku looks for Python's requirements.txt file in the base directory of the repository during deployment because that is the de facto community standard.

Heroku, Google App Engine, Gondor, and OpenShift are PaaS that support Python web applications. Each one requires varying tradeoffs to deploy to their respective platforms.

Traditional LAMP server stack versus a Platform-as-a-Service stack

If you go the PaaS route, you can skip over the operating system and web server sections because they are baked into PaaS offerings. PaaS offerings generally start at the WSGI server layer.

Platform-as-a-service responsibilities

Although PaaS offerings simplify setting up and maintaining the servers, operating system, and web server, developers still have responsibilities for other layers of their web stack.

While it's useful to know the operating system that underpins your PaaS, for example Heroku uses Ubuntu 10.04, you will not have to know as much about securing the operating system and server level. However, web applications deployed to a PaaS are just as vulnerable to security breaches at the application level as a standard LAMP stack. It's still your responsibility to ensure the web application framework and your app itself is up to date and secured. See the security section for further information.

Platform-as-a-service resources

Do you want to use a PaaS or deploy to a traditional server?

What WSGI server should I use to run Python code?

How do I set up a database for use with my app?

How can I install the libraries my app depends upon?

My PaaS says I should use a CDN to serve static content. How?