IaaS vs PaaS vs Saas – various cloud service models compared
We know that we write a lot of articles that sound as if we threw a Scrabble board into a brick wall and then assembled all the sentences from the mixed up letters. Like a lot of specialized industries, web hosting has its own acronyms: VPS, PHP, SSDs, SSL, GUI, LAMP stacks, ASP, MySQL, AWS, CMS, SSH, and IMAP are just a few among many.
Actually, most can be explained in a pretty straightforward manner, once you have a broad understanding of how hosting works, but I still trip up occasionally when telling someone about the various cloud computing configurations that exist and which solutions might be best for their particular project or business needs.
Usually when I talk to people, it’s about one of the -aaS, or “as a Service” variants, such as SaaS or PaaS. The list of cloud-based services is long and growing longer all the time, because each of these differing solutions is like a remote Lego model, with each brick being a piece of the infrastructure or an application that their business needs. Here’s an introduction to some of the -aaS services that are out there, assembled here for your consideration so that you hopefully won’t get them -aaS backwards. (Sorry, it was too tempting to resist.)
IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS – how do they differ?
Even before you get to all the acronyms so beloved of tech lovers, concepts behind cloud services can feel like you’re grasping at…well, clouds really. It’s hard to think of iaas vs paas, paas vs saas, or iaas vs saas if you don’t know what they mean. Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, and Software-as-a-Service may leave you scratching your head, but they describe subtly different tasks and responsibilities which the service provider offers to their users.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service gives users environments that can be scaled, controlled and automated in virtually any number of ways. PaaS gives users a framework that lets them create and release applications quickly. It automates and manages the provision of infrastructure. Software-as-a-Service gets rid of the need to put a program on a device and run it from there. Instead, those programs run elsewhere and can be accessed through the Internet.
Defining cloud computing services – IaaS, PaaS, SaaS
So, it looks like the -aaS part of the acronyms are easy to understand. The concept of as-a-Service is clear, telling us that whatever the first letter stands for, that thing can be available to anyone anywhere with an Internet connection.
The strength with Cloud services is that users can increase or decrease the amount of remote resources that they need. They aren’t paying for and setting up their own equipment on-site and then finding that they don’t use it as much as they thought. They’re paying for what they use, more when they need it, less when they don’t. Shunting data and business processes to the cloud gives unmatched flexibility to businesses big and small and is a huge step up from the logistical and financial headaches of old-style IT.
IaaS Stands for “Infrastructure-as-a-Service”
Investing in servers which you then have to manage, and investing in hardware that takes up space and depreciates probably aren’t the two things at the top of your Christmas list. IaaS probably is, because it allows users to create and manage virtual machines which are preconfigured and deploy computing power in less time and without the complexity.
Amazon Web Services’ IaaS is called the Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. IaaS packages like this look after storage, networking, servers, and virtualization components. It then usually falls to IaaS customers to install and maintain the operating system, databases, security components, and applications.
PaaS stands for “Platform-as-a-Service”
Developers like PaaS offerings because they let them “develop,” – write their code and test it – instead of worrying about the tasks involved with managing the system that they’re doing it on.
Microsoft Azure is a popular PaaS that you can check out in our in-depth examples section. Google Cloud Platform is another PaaS that you can find here. Along with the managed infrastructure, PaaS products include APIs and tools that let developers add features like traffic splitting, monitoring, and version control systems.
SaaS means “Software-as-a-Service”
Gmail, Dropbox, Salesforce, and Netflix are all well-known examples of SaaS applications. All of the storage and computational heavy lifting happens in the cloud, and the user accesses the fruits of these labors over the Internet via a browser-based interface
As SaaS customer you can make use of tools that you never have to worry about fixing or maintaining. Your data is backed up and updates happen automatically. It’s all off-site so you don’t have to worry about how it all works. What you do have to worry about is that it can still break. With a SaaS provider you are making them custodian of all your most important stuff, so you have to hope that their security is robust, they will bill you honestly, and their service won’t go down just when you need it most.
Cloud service models for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS
The cloud industry continues to grow. Research company Forrester thinks that the cloud market will see growth boosted from $146 billion in 2017 to $236 billion in 2020. It also suggests that providers will increase the number of services and computing models available, and sees an upsurge in new cloud adopters seeking to benefit from the cloud’s inherent increases in efficiency, cost saving potential, and security. Forrester thinks regional and industry-specific services will be on sale from new and more diverse cloud providers.
With Office 365, Azure, and virtual machines, Microsoft has the cloud-model trifecta covered.
Amazon Web Services was on the crest of the first cloud computing wave when it started in 2006, according to CIO, which pegs the company’s current revenue at something like $11 billion a year. Microsoft Azure currently sits in second place as a cloud provider, and it recently reported a 100% increase in quarterly growth over the previous year. Microsoft offers 600+ services in just its Azure suite alone, and also covers all three cloud computing models.
PaaS vs. IaaS with Microsoft Azure
Azure has a slew of fast and convenient virtual servers on offer, each available in the blink of an eye with the language, workload, and operating system of the superuser. Azure gives them pre-configured server images which makes deployment even more simple, or uses can dive in and create their own bespoke configurations if they prefer.
PaaS-wise, Azure Cloud Services gives developers plenty of language and framework options are none of the headaches of infrastructure management. Azure integrates with the Azure SDK and Visual Studio to further ease the development journey. Azure Emulator mimics cloud functionality on a user’s local machine, so that cloud apps can be tested off-line before deployment. When they are deployed, Cloud Services takes care of automatic operating system and application patching, along with integrated health, monitoring, and load-balancing tools.
Microsoft Office SaaS
Some Azure components might drift outside of PaaS and IaaS functionality and into SaaS, but with Office 365, it’s much more obviously an example of SaaS. It offers online versions of old favorites like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Outlook, and SharePoint. Subscription plans vary for home, business, and enterprise users, and the apps are available for web browsers and mobile.
Understanding the cloud computing stack (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS)
New York-based cloud provider Apprenda compares cloud computing platforms to the power grid — lightbulb users don’t need to know how power is generated. They just “see the light.” Similarly, cloud users don’t need to know how the cloud works. The WebSpecia blog explains IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS through a transportation analogy: IaaS is like a lease car arrangement, PaaS equates like catching a cab, and SaaS is more like using a bus or the subway.
However you choose to describe the IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS cloud computing models, this guide will of hopefully un-muddied some of your thoughts about these on-demand services. Once you’ve become familiar with the three main configurations, you can start your journey through the myriad of other options, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
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