With the rapid evolution of infrastructure technologies, hosting services and provisioning models have drastically changed to reflect the new cloud driven paradigm. In the past if a company required IT infrastructure it had to lease or buy outright a specific level of capacity and capabilty. Investment was required regardless if the entire infrastructure has been used or not.
The traditional own and operate model that requires significant up-front capex investment is largely going the way of the floppy disk drive. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) based consumption models are the modern way to provision and consume IT resources.
IaaS enables organisations to consume IT infrastructure on-demand as required, configured to meet your specific needs. You only get billed for the particular services that you have acquired or used. IaaS dramatically reduces the maintenance effort and costs associated with organisations managing their own IT infrastructure.
IaaS by nature, offers significant advantages in orchestration and automation when it comes to vital infrastructure tasks such as log access, load balancing, detailed billing, storage resiliency, monitoring, and several others. There will be a wide range of services that are offered alongside infrastructure components.
What is the difference between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS?
To put it simply, cloud computing is how digital services are delivered over the internet, or “the cloud” as it is technically called. These services can range from compute, network and storage services all the way up to advanced analytic, machine learning and AI capabilities.
Consuming these IT capabilities as a service provides significant benefits in flexibility of how IT is consumed enabling for much faster innovation.
Primarily, cloud computing has three major categories – software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). It is important that you know the differences between these three, especially if you’re considering adopting cloud services into your organisation.
As already mentioned, IaaS is all about consuming IT infrastructure from a cloud provider under a service or subscription model. Typically you can rent anything that you need such as, but not limited to virtual machines, servers, operating systems, networks, and storage. IaaS is typically the foundation from which all other cloud services are built on.
On the other hand, PaaS is entirely dedicated to testing, developing, managing, and delivering various software applications. This cloud computing service is especially designed for developers so that they can easily and quickly create applications for the web and mobile, too. PaaS typically covers database and middleware services that applications are built on top of.
SaaS are the end user applications that are delivered over the internet. Under this category, the provider is responsible for hosting and managing the software application, as well as the underlying infrastructure that it may come with. What happens basically is that a user will connect to the application using a smartphone, PC or tablet. Typical examples of such applications are email, and office tools like Microsoft Office 365. Many enterprise cloud applications are delivered exclusively as SaaS such as Workday, Salesforce and Google GSuite.
When to use IaaS?
IaaS comes in three different models – hybrid, public, and private cloud. A private cloud means that the infrastructure is within the premise of the user or customer, whereas a public cloud refers to a cloud that can be found at the data center of its provider or vendor. A hybrid cloud is where the organisations IT assets are a combination of public and private cloud systems and services.
IaaS is often used by organizations that are looking for a faster, easier, and cost-efficient way to manage their workload. There is no longer a need to support the underlying infrastructure as you can just easily provision and consume the equivalent cloud services with little to no lead time or up front cost.
Looking at it more closely, IaaS can be an effective strategy for temporary workloads. It’s also a good approach if you have workloads that are on its experimental stage. A good example is when a business is in the process of developing and testing an experimental software product. If ever the product passes the testing and refining stages, you can then move it forward to traditional deployment without the IaaS support.
IaaS pros and cons
IaaS makes it easier and more dynamica to choose an infrastructure solution that will suit your demands as a user. IaaS can be consumed by as little or as much as you require – with massive amounts of compute power available for HPC workloads.
Ease of Access
IT services can be accessed globally across multiple devices. This allows IT organisations to put cost effective capabilities directly in the hands of end users quickly and efficiently.
No up-front capital cost or commitment required. Opportunities to reduce maintenance and operational cost.
Provisioning models allow for solutions to be provisioned that exactly match requirements.
Security of complex and critical IT infrastructure is managed by the cloud service provider.
Availability of services that are not possible in a hybrid or on-premise model.
Access to IaaS requires fast, resilient internet conncetions. This becomes even more critical when data and databases are moved between public and private cloud environments.
Shared infrastructure can introduce noisy neighbours. Whist this can be reduced it typically comes with increased costs of dedicated cloud infrastructure.
There is little to no control over what services are provisioned. Whilst each cloud service provider has a comprehensive catalog they do not cover all IT requirements or use cases.
Increasing cloud service usage and complexity comes with increasing cost. Incorrectly provisioned cloud services can end up costing much more than anticipated. Bill shock also applies to the world of cloud services as well.
Leading IaaS vendors
As of 2018, there are at least 14 leading IaaS vendors to consider – at least according to the Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS. As expected, Amazon Web Services remains to be on the top of the list, followed by Microsoft’s Azure. These two leading names did not come as a surprise but there are also a few new names to watch out for this year.
Google is slowly but surely catching up, while the other top leaders are as follows:
- Alibaba Cloud
There is no doubt that IaaS can offer massive benefits to an organisation. Properly done it can unlock market opportunities and support digital innovation. Done wrong it can cost much more than expected and end up in a complex mess that does not deliver. It’s up to you to choose the right platform that your organization requires. It’s best to do your own research first and of course, don’t hesitate to ask for an expert’s advice so as to make sure that you are making the right decision.