SaaS, PaaS, IaaS: There’s a Cloud for Everyone
You know how everything related to cloud has become “’something’ as a service”? Well, there’s actually a method to the madness. There’s a cloud for everyone, regardless of skill level. These distinctions help map out where cloud fits best into enterprises and individual technical competencies.
For example, there are varying levels of “easy” cloud, versus more “intensive” cloud engagements.
Solutions on the market today address a range of technology and business needs, from the underlying “plumbing” that provides for processing power, scalability, and networking, to development, or business functionality. It all depends on an organization’s readiness for the cloud.
People first dipping their toes into cloud computing, for example, are likely to avail themselves of a single service, such as email or online presentation software. As comfort grows with some of the more peripheral cloud services, others within the company may sign on for services such as online research or customer relationship tools. At the same time, developers may recognize that they can gain access to the latest tools online, without waiting for the next budget cycle to purchase upgraded tools. Adoption keeps spreading from there.
Ultimately, there are three types of clouds that evolve to meet different needs of organizations, used by different people. Let’s take a look at these key “as-a-Service” forms.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is the delivery method for moving applications across the cloud to end users. Examples include email and customer relationship management software. SaaS is the level most well-suited for non-technical users. Fully ready applications that can be activated immediate on users’ screens are delivered, on a subscription basis (or as a shared service within enterprises). For organizations wrestling with skills issues, SaaS offers ready-to-go applications that can deployed at the touch of a button.
In most cases, SaaS is delivered from public cloud providers, and thus is likely not maintained on-site. But SaaS is part of private and hybrid clouds as well.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the application development and deployment layer, which provides for the tools and frameworks needed to build, integrate and maintain cloud functions. PaaS toolsets often include application servers, development tools and databases. PaaS is the option preferred by developers and software engineers, providing read-to-go environments on which they quickly build and launch applications and services.
PaaS can be delivered by a public cloud provider, or maintained as an integral part of a private or hybrid cloud. Many organizations find it more effective to be able to maintain their own internal cloud of development resources, for example, enabling development teams, no matter where they are located, to have access to the same updated tools and functionality.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the nuts and bolts underpinning the cloud stack – the processing power that can replace server farms, enabling the provisioning of capabilities as needed. IaaS either replaces or augments data centers, along with virtual servers, storage and messaging protocols. IaaS is the choice of operations teams, which seek options in providing the underlying systems and compute power that can reliably power their enterprises, scaling larger or smaller as needed.
Some of the most well-known IaaS services are available from public cloud providers, thereby freeing up IT staff from the need to maintain hardware and perform software updates. However, even when IaaS is delivered from off-site, organizations still require technical expertise to build and maintain an IT infrastructure on top of the service.
While IaaS has grown to be a major business sector, users need to be well versed in deploying and running systems and applications. Spinning up a virtual server on a public cloud, for example, takes away the mechanical and cabling concerns that go with firing up an on-premises server. However, expertise is still required to stand up applications and middleware on top of these servers.
While cloud services take much of the work out of building, launching and supporting applications and systems, that doesn’t mean organizations shouldn’t have the same levels of proficiency and skills in managing their IT environments. In many instances, especially when it comes to IaaS and PaaS. cloud requires the same high levels of technical expertise that are needed to make on-premises systems work for the enterprise. With SaaS, these requirements ease up, and little or no technical skills are required.
The bottom line is that every organization is different, and has different business technology requirements. Going with SaaS, PaaS or IaaS – or some combination of all three – depends on the levels of technology sophistication that will be supported. Cloud computing isn’t a single, monolithic solution that can be magically dropped into any situation, but that it serves many distinct purposes.
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