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Understanding the Cloud Computing Stack: SaaS, PaaS and IaaS

When businesses start exploring the opportunities of the cloud, they are often challenged with understanding the differences among:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Even when they understand the difference between the three core cloud categories, it can be difficult to determine the cloud computing model which offers the the best value to your organization.

SaaS, PaaS and IaaS are all integral parts of the cloud. The goal of xaaS (anything as a service) vendors is to empower its clients to access to a critical data, while outsourcing management of:

  • Networks
  • Servers
  • Storage hardware
  • Security infrastructure
  • Content and data delivery

The more a cloud service provider can make a customer forget about the technology powering, and business value they are realizing from their cloud partners, the more successful everyone will be.

Exploring the potential of the cloud is interesting, but it doesn’t answer whether your company would benefit from software, infrastructure or platform as a service. Insight of into these technology models are actually mean and how you can apply them to business opportunities is a better use of your time.

SaaS – Software as a Service

SaaS is a software application, delivered over the Internet, either hosted on a multi-tenant (shared server) infrastructure, or dedicated/private cloud environment.

Leading SaaS solutions allow its end users to:

  • Access the cloud application from the internet through their preferred device
  • Access a reliable, intuitive service which is flexible enough to be tailored to their business processes
  • Leverage engaging user experiences to increase user adoption, and accelerate the benefits like information discoverability, collaboration and productivity which the vendor

PaaS – Platform as a Service

If the end user needs additional, custom apps connected with their SaaS solution, then there must be a way to create these apps. PaaS is similar to SaaS with the primary difference being solely for the creation of software that will be delivered over the internet, whereas SaaS covers the usage of that software over the Internet. PaaS is focused towards developers,integrators, or companies looking to get affordable, rapid access to technology resources like CPU’s, storage and database servers without having to manage it on their premises.

PaaS services from companies like Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure) and IBM provide environments to:

  • Develop software elements for the SaaS environment
  • Promote these elements to all end users
  • Integrate applications via middleware to databases, reporting engines and other systems and services
  • Reduce technology overhead cost and create opportunities for faster innovation

IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service

SaaS applications provide user interfaces into data and content, and administrative tools to configure:

  • Workflow and business context/processes
    User input/output tools

PaaS provides development environments to enhance and extend the SaaS business apps. IaaS offers services to manage the structured and unstructured data beneath the application layer. Security, load balancing, virtualization, content delivery, operating system resources and business continuity/recovery tools tend to be managed with IaaS services.

Banks, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies manage a lot of data, so in many cases a business case can be justified for an IaaS investment.

Learning Through Examples

All sorts of companies use SaaS services like Virtual Data Rooms and document sharing/collaboration services. If you are evaluating PaaS and IaaS services, you likely have more technical development resources of your own, or the scale/importance of technology in your business is greater.

There are many “as a Service” models taken from the big bowl of alphabet soup that is the roster of cloud technology acronyms. Infrastructure, Platform and Software as a Service are three of the most common “aaS’s”.