Cloud computing can be an overwhelming topic to explore, particularly when trying to make decisions about how cloud models can be implemented to benefit your business. While many business owners are by now familiar with the very common SaaS (software-as-a-service) model that encompasses so many of the most popular products on the Internet today, the IaaS and PaaS models are not as widely understood. Together we’ll explore the differences between PaaS (platform-as-a-service) and IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and how each of them might make a better fit for the needs you face at your business.
What is IaaS?
Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is the term used to categorize a wide variety of services that provide infrastructure computing resources to clients via their Internet connection. So, let’s summarize all the infrastructure technology costs that you would face in a traditional, on-site configuration. You would likely need to purchase and maintain:
- Point-of-access hardware
- Storage (and backup storage)
- And more…
With an IaaS service, all of this is administered and hosted by your cloud provider instead of on-site. This is useful in a wide variety of business models, which we will address later in the post.
What is PaaS?
Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) refers to an alternative technology solution which essentially allows users to develop custom applications using an existing platform available through the cloud. This service enables a company to produce custom applications without expending the time and cost to develop their own platform.
PaaS is a type of service often utilized by businesses with big visions for new applications, but who lack the internal resources to implement a full development process. There are many widely known examples of PaaS, and you may have utilized them in the past without even realizing that these services fell into the category. One of the most well-known is the Google App Engine which allows you to develop web apps utilizing the Google platform.
When considering the question of IaaS vs. PaaS for your business, it is often not a question of deciding which of these options is objectively “better.” Instead, it is more an issue of understanding which one of them best fits the needs and goals of your organization. Of course, this means first identifying what your company’s goals really are. This is the place you need to start when you’re assessing the suitability of various cloud-computing technologies for your business. A detailed needs evaluation will be critical in deciding whether IaaS, PaaS, or perhaps even both, is suitable for your organization.
Questions to Ask During a Needs Assessment
You should be able to definitively answer each of the following questions before you start actively shopping for your IaaS or PaaS provider.
- Do your technology needs fluctuate to a large degree on an unpredictable basis?
- Is custom application development a priority for your organization?
- Do you have sufficient resources to undertake a complete development cycle in-house?
- Do you regularly upgrade your hardware and software?
- Do you handle all development in-house, or do you prefer to outsource?
- Do you target application development and your web presence as a priority area for budget savings?
- Do you have an existing disaster recovery plan?
Having clear answers to these questions will help you understand how each of these cloud services might fit into your business model as we move forward.
Is IaaS the Right Fit for Your Business?
Essentially, all that is provided when you utilize an IaaS are the raw resources that you need to power your development and applications. One of the best known examples is Microsoft Azure. So what do these services include?
One of the core features of IaaS is that your provider will supply all the storage and networking capabilities that you require. Your company simply signs up for the service and then pays for only what they use. This pay-for-use model is the key to the financial benefits offered by IaaS. When trying to maintain your infrastructure onsite, the equipment needed to simply maintain your services often ends up being overkill for your actual requirements. Couple that expense with the cost of upgrading, maintaining and replacing your equipment as it fails, and it becomes clear that the cost of internally hosting your infrastructure can be prohibitive.
IaaS offers a more affordable and practical alternative. The companies that provide this option use their equipment to host multiple clients (although dedicated options are available for higher prices) and your business only pays for exactly what it uses. In addition, the service provider is responsible for all of the maintenance and upgrades that would otherwise fall on your company’s plate.
If in answering the questions given above, you determined that your technology needs are subject to significant fluctuation, this is where the capabilities of IaaS truly shine. Because you pay only for what use, you can instantly scale up your usage without having to worry about additional investments in on-site infrastructure.
For example, imagine that you’re running a promotion, or gearing up for a product launch, where you expect to see your traffic double or triple over a set period of time. If you attempted this while using your in-house infrastructure, especially if it was already taxed to near capacity during regular usage, then you can almost guarantee that you will experience downtime or failures during the increased traffic load. When you use IaaS instead, this increased need can be met absolutely seamlessly, as the IaaS provider can dynamically scale to meet your requirements on a real-time basis. After your company’s temporary need for increased infrastructure is over, you can then scale back your requirements and their accompanying cost. This increased flexibility and efficient spending on resources are valuable benefits realized through IaaS.
Disaster recovery is another reason to consider the value IaaS could offer your company. Failing to have an adequate disaster recovery plan in place can mean the significant loss of time, money, data, and your reputation in the event of a major failure. Most companies that manage their resources in-house still rely on some sort of cloud-based recovery failsafe, but an IaaS option guarantees that you’re protected from disasters without having to invest in an extra service.
Regardless of what happens at your physical location, you can access the entirety of your data with an IaaS service anytime you have an Internet connection. This is the ultimate failsafe at a very low cost, something which can make the move to an IaaS worthwhile all by itself.
When a PaaS can Help Your Business Grow
Developing custom applications can be costly, as well as evolve into a very time consuming venture. Even among the largest and most profitable companies in the world, the development cycle often takes longer than anticipated or desired. Utilizing a PaaS can cut huge swaths of work out of the process, allowing you to get to market faster and more efficiently.
These applications require many components that typically need to be configured for every application, and the process of getting up and running on multiple virtual server instances is extremely time consuming. However, with a PaaS, many steps in the traditional approach to development are excised in favor of a much more streamlined approach.
A PaaS will offer you a platform to work with where you can combine elements of existing pieces of code with an easy-to-use interface. Essentially, it allows developers to quickly assemble the requisite nuts and bolts of an application, allowing them much more time to focus on creating and deploying the elements that make it unique to your organization.
The benefits of this approach are broad reaching. As cloud technology shifts and grows, various pieces of underlying digital infrastructure get updated. With manual development, this leaves your organization with the burden of having to manually update your application as its components or the technologies that it needs to interface with are updated.
With a PaaS, these critical updates are handled for you. Many of the tedious details of development can occur in the background, leaving your team to focus on actual development instead of maintenance and upkeep.
Although there is often a focus on how IaaS can save a company money, PaaS also has financial benefits. When every aspect of development is handled manually, it takes only one small mistake from a system administrator to cause costly downtime, including time expended debugging the application and repairing the issue. With PaaS, this type of problem is easily avoided, saving you the time and money that these errors cost.
Scalability in PaaS, like IaaS, is unmatched by anything you can create internally. When you develop something internally you have to do so with a target framework in mind. This can end up costing you money if you overestimate your project’s scale, or leave you behind and scrambling to catch up if you underestimate it. It can also be difficult to scale up quickly and in a cost effective manner.
With PaaS development, scaling up couldn’t be easier. Most providers have options that allow you to scale up your application with only a few clicks. The multitude of adjustments that need to be made for such a process occur behind the scenes, with your administrator only having to adjust a few settings in order to scale your application in any direction you require.
Support – A Benefit of Both PaaS and IaaS
As you might have already gleaned from this article, much of the cloud-computing technology currently available is geared towards reducing the difficulty and the workload associated with operating in the cloud. The support available when you use a PaaS or IaaS is another way in which this takes place.
When something goes wrong with your internal infrastructure, there is no recourse but for you or your administrators to dig into the system and try and repair the problem. Conversely, in the event that something goes wrong when you’re utilizing a PaaS or IaaS system, you have access to the provider’s team of IT experts who can help you resolve difficulties in minutes instead of days. Their familiarity with their own systems is invaluable and can help ensure that your business is back up and running in no time.
Invest in IaaS or PaaS – or Both – Today
As cloud computing moves further into the realm of services offered, it allows the consumer, to focus on results instead of the underlying technology needed to achieve those results. You didn’t go into business in order to spend days or dollars wrestling with the technical minutiae you need in place in order to achieve your goals. Whether you invest in an IaaS, a PaaS, or some combination of the two that can serve you best in your business,either one will reduce the workload and strain on your organization. This leaves you free to focus on selling, creating, or providing whatever service you specialize in. If you’re interested in understanding exactly how these services can integrate into your existing IT infrastructure, contact Network Depot for a free consultation at any time.