Cloud computing has become a common term over the last decade, but the service sometimes creates confusion. With all the new cloud options and the phrase “as a service” seemingly tacked onto everything imaginable, it’s helpful to take a step back and look that the three different types of cloud computing.
All cloud computing services are built upon the same conceptual framework of remote infrastructure powered by servers housed in a data center. Since there are so many similarities between them, it’s helpful to think of cloud computing as a pyramid comprised of three layers. Each layer is more specialized than the one below it, but it’s built upon the same basic structure. The lower layers are much broader, representing their versatility, customizability, and wide range of application, while the upper layers are narrower because they’re purpose-built for a specific task.
As the foundation of the cloud computing pyramid, IaaS is the most comprehensive and flexible type of cloud service available. Essentially, it provides a completely virtualized computing infrastructure that is provisioned and managed over the internet. An IaaS provider manages the physical end of the infrastructure (servers, data storage space, etc) in a data center, but allows customers to fully customize those virtualized resources to suit their specific needs. With IaaS, the customer can purchase, install, configure, and manage any software they need to use, including things like operating systems, middleware, applications, business analytics, and development tools. Highly scalable, companies only pay for the infrastructure they use, allowing them to scale their computing needs as needed without having to build out additional capacity.
IaaS eliminates the capital expense of building up in-house infrastructure. It’s a great option for small companies and startups that don’t have the resources to purchase the hardware and software needed to create their own network internally. It also takes the day-to-day burdens of managing computing infrastructure off the hands of IT departments, freeing them to focus on core business drivers instead of troubleshooting. Since the IaaS provider continuously updates their system with the latest software and update patches, it’s easier to get new programs and applications up and running. IaaS provides the latest in security protections and usually offers services like disaster recovery to go along with their uptime reliability SLAs.
Situated a bit higher up the cloud computing pyramid is PaaS. Whereas IaaS delivers all the tools available through the cloud and leaves it to customers to build whatever suits their needs, PaaS is a bit more specialized. Rather than pure infrastructure, PaaS provides the framework needed to build, test, deploy, manage, and update software products. It utilizes the same basic infrastructure as IaaS, but it also includes the operating systems, middleware, development tools, and database management systems needed to create software applications.
PaaS is extremely helpful for any company that develops software and web-based applications. Many of the tools needed to develop for multiple platforms (computers, mobile devices, browsers, etc) can be quite expensive, By using PaaS, customers can access the development tools they need, when they need them, without having to purchase them outright. Since the platform is accessible over the internet, remote development teams can all access the same assets to speed up product development. Most PaaS tools provide extensive pre-coded applications built into the platform, which can greatly reduce coding time and help companies get their products to market faster.
For most people, SaaS is the most familiar form of cloud computing. Situated at the top of the pyramid, SaaS is a fully-developed software solution ready for purchase and use over the internet on a subscription basis. The SaaS provider manages the infrastructure, operating systems, middleware, and data necessary to deliver the program, ensuring that the software is available whenever and wherever customers need it. Many SaaS applications run directly through web browsers, eliminating the need for downloads or installations. This greatly reduces software management issues for internal IT teams and allows companies to streamline their operations with hybrid and multi-cloud deployments.
SaaS applications allow companies to get up and running very quickly as well as scale operations rapidly. There’s no need to purchase or deploy the hardware and software used to deliver their business services. Even sophisticated enterprise-level applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs, can be easily accessed by the smallest organizations, providing them with tools that allow them to grow their businesses more effectively than ever.
Cloud computing has transformed the way companies around the world do business in ways that many people don’t even realize. Understanding the difference between various types of cloud computing and identifying which one is the right fit for a growing business is tremendously important. As cloud services continue to proliferate, they will surely provide new opportunities for companies looking to innovate and drive business results.