IAAS VS. PAAS VS. SAAS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
With the substantial shift from traditional IT platforms to cloud services in recent years, businesses should critically evaluate each cloud option to determine the best fit. Here, we will dive into the three main types of cloud computing- How they work, key features, advantages, and challenges.
IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are the three main types of cloud computing and denote the different ways you can use the cloud for your company. The key differentiating factor between the three is the collection of resources the vendor manages versus which services your business manages.
The Three Types of Cloud Computing
IaaS- Infrastructure as a Service
IaaS is a form of cloud computing that provides the fundamental compute, network, and storage infrastructure on-demand and over the internet. This infrastructure is comprised of a collection of both physical and virtualized resources that give users the basic tools to run workloads and applications in the cloud. IaaS services are a cost-effective option because it eliminates the need for a physical, on-premise data center.
When comparing all three types of cloud computing, they are often structured in a pyramid to illustrate the number of resources each provides. IaaS is portrayed as the bottom layer because it provides the foundational infrastructure upon which PaaS and SaaS build.
IaaS Resource Management
In a traditional IT environment, the end-user manages all elements end-to-end, however, IaaS vendors provide servers, networking, storage, and virtualization. The diagram below illustrates the difference in the management of resources by vendors and consumers for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
Given its foundational nature, IaaS software is capable of supporting a diverse range of workloads.
The most common ones are:
- Deploying and Running Common Business Software
- Data Storage
- Web Applications
- Development and Test Environments
- Customer-Facing Websites
- Data Warehousing
- Backup and Recovery
Advantages of IaaS
You save immensely by eliminating the cost of setting up and maintaining a physical data center. Also, you save on hiring qualified IT staff and the additional associated costs.
Smart Pricing Model
With IaaS, you pay on a consumption basis. Meaning, you only pay for the specific services you are using and how often you use them. You do not have to use every service that is offered, therefore, you can tailor your consumption to your needs at that specific time, which cuts out any unnecessary “owned” infrastructure. The pay-as-you-go model also eliminates the need for high, upfront capital expenditures and avoids risky long-term lock-ins.
Any growing business will need to scale at some point. Some companies may even experience seasonal dips in production. IaaS accommodates normal fluxes in workloads by allowing for the on-demand scaling or shrinking of resources. Yet again, this reduces any unnecessary “owned” infrastructure, so you only pay for what you really need.
IaaS solutions enhance the speed and performance of applications. In addition, IaaS providers manage all aspects of the foundational infrastructure, so IT professionals can optimize their workloads and test new ideas quickly.
With IaaS, there is no need to take the time to upgrade and maintain software and hardware, or troubleshoot equipment problems, because IaaS providers regularly run updates to ensure the best performance. IaaS also protects against single points of failure. So, if a single server goes offline, the service that is contributing resources is not affected because there are many other running servers that are providing the same services for this very reason.
High Availability and Disaster Recovery
Without IaaS, achieving high availability and business continuity can be expensive because it requires a substantial amount of technology and experienced staff to both run and monitor it. IaaS solutions allow users normal access to applications and services, even during a disaster or outage.
Security is a top priority for most cloud service providers. Oftentimes, with the proper agreement, IaaS service vendors can provide better application and data security than you could get in-house.
Because you do not need to set up the underlying infrastructure with IaaS, you are able to deliver apps or services to users faster. When you decide to launch a new application, IaaS providers are able to get the necessary infrastructure ready from minutes to hours, as opposed to days or weeks.
Out of all of the types of cloud computing, the user has the most control of their infrastructure with IaaS.
These are the basic elements that make up the IaaS infrastructure:
Physical Data Centers
IaaS vendors have to manage large, typically global, data centers. These data centers are important because they contain the physical technology that is required to power the services that are available to end-users over the internet.
In a very general way, IaaS can be described as virtualized compute resources. When looking at it this way, IaaS compute can be understood as a virtual machine. IaaS vendors manage this virtual machine, so the consumers can arrange for certain virtual instances that possess specific amounts of computing power and memory.
With IaaS solutions, traditional networking hardware, like routers or switches, is offered over the internet with APIs.
The most common types of cloud storage are object storage, block storage, and file storage. Usually, object storage is the most frequently used in cloud infrastructures due to its high performance, almost limitless scale, and strong distribution.
PaaS- Platform as a Service
PaaS is the ‘second layer’ of cloud computing that offers operating systems, middleware, and runtime in addition to the resources that IaaS offers. PaaS solutions are mainly used for software development and are commonly designed to support the complete web application lifecycle, which includes building, testing, deploying, managing, and updating. All of the needed development tools are accessed via the internet, meaning developers can test new apps, collaborate on projects and deploy products from anywhere, at any time.
In addition to supporting the development space, PaaS provides other cloud-based resources such as access to libraries, database management systems, and support for varying languages. It is important to note that you lose more control of resources with PaaS, however, you gain an array of development tools that are not offered with IaaS.
What Most PaaS Models Include
PaaS vendors manage the physical underlying infrastructure that supports development, which includes, servers, storage, data centers, and networking.
PaaS solutions most commonly provide tools for overall software development, application design, testing, and product deployment. Due to the cloud environment, these tools are available through an online interface, so they can be accessed from anywhere.
Middleware is software that connects communication between operating systems and end-user applications.
With PaaS, providers maintain databases and offer additional database management tools.
Other PaaS Services May Include:
- Development Team Collaboration
- Web Service Integration
- Information Security
- Workflow Management
- Business Intelligence and Analytics
- Scheduling Applications
Advantages of PaaS
Building and maintaining a physical infrastructure can be a big commitment in regards to time and financials. High-performing technology, server space, and employing experienced IT staff can be quite costly. PaaS is a great fit for companies that need to develop quickly but lack the time and resources to create an internal IT environment. PaaS services are normally offered on a per-use or monthly basis, which helps businesses avoid hefty up-front costs.
PaaS offers a suite of ready-to-use tools, so you can add development capabilities without adding more staff. These tools come equipped with a flexible user interface and automation, which increases the development timeline and time-to-market.
PaaS allows for growing businesses to scale operations without spending heavily on infrastructure. You only pay for what you need because you have the ability to add capacity specifically during peak times and downsize whenever is needed.
Most PaaS models offer automatic updates, saving you the time and annoyance of rolling out updates on individual machines. These regular updates also ensure the use of the most current tools and applications.
Since all tools and applications are delivered via the internet, PaaS allows staff to work on the go, from anywhere. With remote working on the rise recently, PaaS provides critical flexibility so that no one is tied to a particular machine or network.
Because of the online interface, PaaS platforms can be easily run without prior system administrator experience.
Things to Consider Before Implementing a PaaS Solution
It is important to note that each type of cloud computing offers its own set of particular benefits and disadvantages. Companies need to evaluate their unique needs and challenges in order to find the best fit.
PaaS Provider Dependence
As mentioned before, since PaaS solutions offer more resources than IaaS, you will have less control. With PaaS, there is a certain reliance on the vendor’s capabilities and ability to resolve issues. You cannot just seek help from an in-house IT professional, so be sure to evaluate the provider’s agreement details regarding resolve timelines.
Many companies rely on tools and applications that are outside of the PaaS environment. Application integration differs for each PaaS provider, so it is critical to assess compatibility details before choosing a solution.
Lack of Customization
Although many PaaS solutions allow for the tailoring of applications for a business’s unique needs, there can be limitations. Not all PaaS vendors account for ultimate functionality for each company’s specific operations and nuances. It would be advantageous for businesses to evaluate their current platform and any possible hindrances to a cloud transition
As touched upon previously, when you are using a third-party infrastructure, you give up the control of certain resources, one of those being security management. Since you will not be able to manage security in any manner desired, check the PaaS provider’s security practices before purchasing. Additionally, PaaS vendors manage security for the infrastructure and platform, however, companies are responsible for the security of the applications that they build.
SaaS- Software as a Service
SaaS is the top layer of cloud computing, in which the service provider manages all the resources such as networking, storage, servers, virtualization, middleware, and data. In simpler terms, software as a service is a way of providing business applications over the internet. ‘As a service’ refers to a subscription-based payment method rather than purchasing the software outright.
Software as a service is probably the most well-known type of cloud computing due to its easy-to-use nature. SaaS consumers do not have to install or maintain any type of hardware or software, they just simply log into the application over the internet. Some popular examples of SaaS applications are Salesforce, Google Workspace, and Dropbox.
Advantages and Key Characteristics of the SaaS Model
SaaS solutions are usually offered via a monthly or annual subscription, which allows companies to avoid strict lock-ins and predict future budgeting. With SaaS, the need for expensive hardware and costly setup is completely eliminated, so businesses save big.
With SaaS, it is very easy to add features or update licenses to accommodate your growing and evolving business. You even have the ability to downgrade services if needed during seasonal downturns.
SaaS provides access to all data from anywhere or anytime through any networked device. Additionally, all users at a company see the same information, at the same time, which allows for great project collaboration. Nowadays, the majority of people are well acquainted with web interfaces, therefore, the transition is much more seamless.
Product Care and Maintenance
SaaS vendors provide automatic updates very regularly to ensure high performance and modern applications.
Customizations with SaaS applications are often easy, often with just a point-and-click to complete changes. These customizations can be both user specific or unique to a whole company, depending on the need. Each user gets to make changes based on their preferences without affecting the shared infrastructure.
Multi-tenant architecture is a system in which the multitude of users and applications share a single infrastructure and centrally maintained code base. Often times multi-tenant architecture is a benefit rather than a disadvantage because the SaaS vendors can innovate and update code more quickly on a single infrastructure versus multiple.
Common Types of SaaS Solutions
Project Management Software
Communicate deadlines, track schedules, allocate resources, and organize all other aspects of project management to ensure cost effectiveness and timeline completion.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
Organize and access customer data to achieve sales goals and automate business processes.
Track important finances and organize financial data to monitor and improve business growth.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software
Streamline the management of business process integration to increase information sharing and improve productivity.
Bring a team together to achieve common tasks and solve issues together.
Other Types of SaaS Solutions
Other types of software may include billing and invoice software, email marketing software, web hosting software, human resources software and much more. There’s practically SaaS software for any need.
Popular Examples of SaaS Software
- Microsoft Office 365
- Google Apps
- Amazon Web Services
Who Owns SaaS Data?
With the vast majority of SaaS applications, you own all of your data. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) usually outline the consumer’s data ownership rights for data located on the SaaS provider’s servers and the right to retrieve said data. Even in the case that your SaaS vendor goes out of business, most contracts provide built-in contingencies that guarantee the right to your data.
Additional SLA Aspects to Keep in Mind
- Client responsibilities to notify vendor of issues in a timely manner.
- Guidelines for different service protocols, such as expected level of uptime and the response process for poor service issues.
- Vendor responsibilities for updates, security or support.
Choose the Best Fit
Just to reiterate, it is important to understand that each type of cloud computing service has its own advantages and disadvantages, thus it takes a lot evaluation to determine what your business needs and which option could fulfill those needs in the best way possible. The decision may come down to affordability, security preferences or business process compatibility.
Want to Move to the Cloud but Don’t Know the Best Option for Your Business?
If you are looking to migrate your business to the cloud, CSDP offers business process consulting that will determine which solution is perfect for your companies needs. Our IaaS and PaaS solutions are fully customized to your specific business needs.
Confidently switch to the cloud by taking advantage of a free initial consultation to gain expert advice!
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