What is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

IaaS is the acronym for Infrastructure as a Service and refers to a form of cloud computing that offers a set of virtualized computing resources to a business via the Internet. Cloud computing in general consists of three main categories, with IaaS representing one of those three primary cloud services alongside Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). IaaS provides the basic systems required for a business to operate in the digital age and maintain an online presence. IaaS typically includes servers and storage, along with networking firewalls and security, all of which is delivered virtually via the cloud.

How does IaaS Work?

IaaS is a cloud computing service provided by a third-party vendor that takes on the responsibility of managing data centers and hosting the physical infrastructure services and components required to operate the system. In order for cloud-based applications such as this to operate, the service provider needs data servers, storage, networking hardware, and a virtualization layer to deliver the IaaS service to clients.

While the service provider is responsible for maintaining the physical equipment that makes IaaS possible, clients need Internet connectivity to access the cloud platform virtually. Clients can then use these cloud infrastructure services to deploy other cloud-based applications. As an example, clients can create virtual machines and install operating systems in each of those virtual machines, deploy middleware like databases, run software, and even create backups that protect information and make disaster recovery easier.

IaaS is typically deployed by third-party vendors as a public cloud that provides access to cloud computing resources to multiple organizations on the same cloud platform. However, vendors can also deliver IaaS cloud computing via private clouds. A private cloud has the added benefit of being devoted to the software needs and growth goals of a single organization. All of the computing resources, SaaS applications, and web apps associated with IaaS on a private cloud are directed toward one company.

Why Use Infrastructure as a Service?

Most businesses that turn to Infrastructure as a Service because of the flexibility it allows and the ability to add and drop SaaS solutions, applications, data storage space, and other cloud services as needed. A traditional IT platform is not as capable as cloud services at reacting to changing needs in a quick manner. For example, an IaaS platform provides access to scalable IT solutions that can be adjusted in near real-time to adjust to capacity changes. IaaS is also an ideal cloud computing solution for companies that want to better compete against web-based companies without massive capital expenditures.

What is the Difference between IaaS and PaaS?

As mentioned in the introduction, Infrastructure as a Service is one of the three main branches of cloud computing. All three forms of cloud computing shift the responsibility for management from a company directly to a third-party vendor instead. The difference between IaaS and PaaS, or Platform as a Service, is the level of responsibility. For example, in an IaaS model, a business is still responsible for managing applications, data, runtime, middleware, and O/S, while the vendor manages physical infrastructure needs such as virtualization, services, storage, and networking.

A PaaS model removes more of the management responsibility from a company. Runtime, middleware, and O/S are the responsibility of a PaaS provider, leaving companies to deal only with applications and data, but falls short of the coverage of software solutions available in SaaS. Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is an example of PaaS is designed to deliver cloud platform services that offer cloud components for the operation of certain software and are mainly used for applications. AWS, for example, allows clients to maintain management of applications while AWS deals with servers, data storage, and networking support. AWS is just one example of PaaS platforms available to companies and developers.

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What are the Benefits of IaaS?

The benefits of deploying Infrastructure as a Service are wide-reaching and have broad appeal across a variety of industries. First and foremost, an IaaS platform can help drastically reduce the capital expense and ongoing costs of maintaining storage servers, data centers, applications, and other physical infrastructure pieces associated with traditional IT setups. This benefit, in particular, offers a great value to start-ups, small businesses, and those businesses looking to test new ideas or expand storage capacity.

IaaS can also help improve business continuity and disaster recovery. In the modern era, consumers are online around the globe 24/7/365. This means that at any point in time there is a customer that could be trying to purchase a product or arrange an appointment. IaaS ensures that companies are available at all times and in the event of disaster recovery, data and software applications are back up and running faster after power outages or natural disasters.

Among the other benefits of IaaS is the ability to innovate rapidly. When a new product or initiative is ready to launch, the IaaS market can respond much faster than a traditional IT infrastructure by providing increased capacity, data storage, and access to more virtual machines in minutes or hours rather than days or weeks. On a similar note, Infrastructure as a Service is also scalable and allows businesses to respond faster to changing business conditions with greater storage and capacity. For example, retail companies can use cloud IaaS to boost capacity and respond to increased demand for software and applications during the holiday sales period. Those resources can then be scaled back down quickly once the high-activity period has passed, saving money in the long term compared to maintaining additional infrastructure, capacity, and applications through down periods.

Other examples of the benefits of IaaS include the ability to stay focused on core business operations. Almost every company has a digital presence in the 21st century, but that doesn’t mean every business needs the IT infrastructure on site to stay online and still pursue the goals of their individual business. Using IaaS, companies can free up employees and resources to focus on supporting core operations rather than worrying about IT infrastructure, data security, software updates, and other computing platforms.

IaaS removes the need to maintain and upgrade software. It removes the need for employees focusing on infrastructure hardware, ensuring networks are secure, and troubleshooting issues with physical infrastructure equipment. IaaS solutions can also deliver better security in some situations. For example, private clouds such as CompleteCloud can offer security for applications and data to small businesses that might otherwise only have been affordable for enterprise businesses.

Finally, companies can take advantage of IaaS architecture to get new applications out to users faster. Cloud infrastructure services mean there is no need to set up the infrastructure first before rolling out new applications, so brands can get them to users faster through IaaS.

What are the Challenges of IaaS?

While there are many great benefits to IaaS, there are also challenges and drawbacks associated with Infrastructure as a Service. For large enterprise businesses, IaaS might not be as willing to move to IaaS as a great deal of capital expenditure has already been poured into developing an in-house IT infrastructure to perform all of the functions of IaaS.

Even though security features are a potential benefit for certain companies, enterprise companies, and others might find that security is also a challenge depending on the service models of the provider. For example, IaaS architecture shared through a public cloud platform has the potential to expose company data and in-house networks to security breaches. If there is a security breach of the third-party data housed by the vendor, that could provide an in for hackers to penetrate all of the businesses using services on that public platform.

Additionally, no two companies have the same level of security needs. Think of it as a mom-and-pop shoe store compared to the CIA. That shoe store’s data and network security needs are far less than the CIA. In the event that an enterprise company with higher security expectations ends up using an IaaS service on a public cloud, it could find that the security measures are lacking for its needs.

This does not mean that all IaaS has security drawbacks. In the case of an enterprise level company, private cloud infrastructure services isolate their operations that architecture and it can dictate the level of security required for access. Whereas a breach in the security of a public cloud potentially puts all users at risk, a private cloud offers an added level of security in that it is solely for the use of that one enterprise customer.

Does IaaS Include Operating Systems?

In most cases, IaaS does include an operating system with the infrastructure packaging computing services. IaaS provides companies with access to virtual machines and those virtual machines feature both an operating system and supporting software. Many cloud infrastructure services offer the option of choosing between several popular operating systems and provide a dashboard that enables the client to manage various virtual machines. Additionally, in most cases, these operating systems are backed up by the infrastructure provider and come with software updates and backup in the event disaster recovery is needed.

How Do You Choose an IaaS Provider?

There are many factors to consider when selecting an IaaS service provider. Although there are many factors to consider, it is important to note that not all of these points will necessarily apply to each potential customers. Small businesses have needs that are much different than those of an enterprise business. Though it is worth considering all of the factors mentioned below, it should also be noted that these are only as valuable in as much as they apply to any one given business:

  • Security is often the first concern of enterprise companies, but it should really be a concern for any business. The benefits and challenges of security solutions in an Infrastructure as a Service platform have already been covered. Each client should determine whether a public cloud has the security solutions that are compliant with laws and regulations governing the processing and storage of data or if they should utilize a more secure private cloud environment.
  • Functionality is another aspect to consider. Many IaaS cloud computing service providers offer basic computing and data storage support, along with support for public cloud solutions, private cloud solutions, and even hybrid options. Enterprise clients, in particular, require an IaaS provider with greater functionality to migrate and run enterprise workloads while delivering development tools that make it easier and faster to deliver applications and software services.
  • Integration speaks to the capacity of an IaaS platform to incorporate into the existing workflow of the business and its ability to adjust with future changes. An IaaS infrastructure that utilizes different databases for storage and different administration tools for applications compared to existing user interfaces is not one that is well integrated. An ideal IaaS has one single credential that enables admins to deal with all aspects of a product suite.
  • Interoperability refers to the ease with which developers and other users can exchange data between various systems and other cloud-based service providers. A good IaaS provider offers individual products and software services that integrate with one another, but also with other cloud products. While many see this as a benefit, our opinion is that everything should be kept in one centralized location to improve performance, security, and scalability.
  • Usability is the final factor to consider when choosing an IaaS provider. From admins and developers to average users, usability speaks the logical and intuitive design of the infrastructure and its supporting software solutions and applications. Products such as software, for example, should remain compatible with the latest releases of hardware and operating systems to maintain a smooth feel for users.

How is Billing Typically Handled?

Infrastructure as a Service is often billed to clients on a pay-per-use model. This can vary by the vendor to feature by-the-hour, by-the-week, or by-the-month usage information. In each of these cases, users are charged a fee based on the cost for the vendor to support the data servers, storage, and networking infrastructure by the hour, week, or month. On a public cloud, this cost is split across all the companies accessing that infrastructure. In the case of a private cloud, the cost goes to the singular entity paying to use it. Some IaaS providers may also charge based on the amount of virtual machine space a client’s operations occupy.

While this pay-as-you-go model eliminates capital expenditures and the ongoing expense of in-house, traditional IT, it is important to determine those costs before making a choice on a particular IaaS provider.

What is an Example of IaaS?

From AWS, IBM Cloud, to Google Cloud Platform, there are a variety of IaaS solutions available to companies big and small. Avatara’s private cloud product and services provide solutions to the computing needs of any company. Virtual services, security such as VPN and firewalls, data storage, management solutions, data management, analytics, and 24×7 U.S. based support are all apart of Avatara’s CompleteCloud solution. IaaS providers now even offer support for VMware, Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile tools for developers.

What Businesses Typically Use IaaS?

There are a number of businesses across various industries that rely on IaaS to complete critical operations. Startups and small businesses with limited capital resources benefit from the robust computing solutions and IT infrastructure provided by an IaaS provider. Rather than investing thousands of dollars in IT hardware, a data center, security features and other physical platforms when cloud IaaS can offer all of those features at a lower cost and handle the management of those systems. This saves money that a startup can divert to recruiting the best employees and rolling out new products/services.

Small and medium-sized businesses also benefit from IaaS by leveraging the infrastructure to grow the brand by rolling out new products, services, and applications without the cost of paying for additional IT infrastructure. Enterprise businesses also employ Infrastructure as a Service to boost capacity and bandwidth during high-demand periods without investing in additional servers, more data center space, or additional software. When demand subsides, those enterprise businesses can roll back their use.

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