When reading about the cloud and related services, the terms IaaS, SaaS and PaaS are often used. We explain the difference between IaaS, Saas and PaaS.
Cloud computing is a broad technological concept that can have many different interpretations. When looking for the optimal IT structure, companies have to make important decisions. Some of those choices are which data and applications you want to keep on-premises or bring to the cloud and which competencies you keep in your own hands or outsource to a third party.
We see many companies opting for the as a service model to accelerate the transition to the cloud. The customer signs up to use the technology of a provider for a monthly or annual fee. The as a service model also has many variants such as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), SaaS (Software as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service).
However, the differences between these variants are often not equally clear to everyone. For a successful transformation in the cloud, it is nevertheless crucial that you as a customer know exactly what you are purchasing from your provider. We make a clear distinction between these three popular as a service models.
What is IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)?
IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a Service, also referred to as infrastructure in a service model. In this model the provider will make its infrastructure, which usually consists of a network, servers and storage, available to the customer. This saves the customer the high costs and the management of their own on-site data center.
You will only pay for the infrastructure that you will actually use. This can be flexibly scaled up or down when necessary in consultation with the provider. As a customer, you still have to develop your own applications and provide a supporting operating system.
Public cloud services from AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud mainly offer services that fall under the heading of IaaS. For example you purchase from those large cloud providers to run virtual machines. Although IaaS mainly relates to the hardware, the virtualisation layer (hypervisor) is generally also part of the infrastructure.
What is PaaS (Platform as a Service)?
With PaaS, or Platform as a Service the provider will host the hardware, but also part of the software, on its own infrastructure and offers it as an integrated platform. This is not about applications, but about the software layer on which you want to build and run those applications.
Think of the operating system or the software you use for the deployment and management of your containers. It is up to the provider to provide an integrated platform. The provider is also responsible for maintaining the hardware and updating the platform software.
PaaS is an attractive formula especially for developers because they no longer have to build the underlying foundation for their applications themselves. This way they can fully focus on writing code and managing applications. The associated management of the data also remains in the hands of the customer.
What is SaaS (Software as a Service)?
SaaS, Software as a Service, is the most comprehensive of the three options and also the most suitable for companies that do not have the expertise to develop applications themselves. With SaaS you get a total package that includes applications in addition to infrastructure, hardware and (platform) software.
With SaaS you opt for an system in which the provider takes care of everything. Access to the applications is arranged via the cloud so that you as a user do not have to install anything yourself. This way, the applications and files are also available from any device. The best-known examples of SaaS are without a doubt Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace.
The current IT landscape is evolving towards complex combinations of the above models. For example you as a company can use Zoom for video meetings, which is a SaaS application. Zoom itself needs servers and does not manage all its data centers itself, which in turn is an IaaS customer at Oracle.
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