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Infrastructure, Platform and Software as a Service

If you have read Push IT’s ‘What is Cloud Computing?’ article you will remember three acronyms IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. They are terms that cannot be ignored when discussing cloud provision. Each is fundamental to cloud delivery services.
We begin with IaaS which is the most straightforward of the three.

IaaS

Rather than delve into lengthy explanations straight off, let’s consider some needs that any business wanting to cut costs, increase business agility and maintain competitive edge might have:

  • The need to cut hardware costs
  • The need to increase capacity when it is needed and scale back when it isn’t
  • The need to reduce underutilised capacity
  • The need to access data wherever personnel are and not be constrained to office-based data
  • The need to remove the risk of on-premises system failure

IaaS as a cloud delivery model can solve each of the above points. It does this by providing the delivery of computing resources by way of virtualized operating systems, workload management software, hardware, load balancing, and networking and storage systems. What is being provided by IaaS is a flexible solution. Companies can move away from the traditional way of buying hardware and other computing resources, and the associated headache of installation and maintenance. Instead, users can leverage computing power and storage ‘on-demand’. Rather than having to implement an infrastructure that can manage peak needs, by renting resources as they are required, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and business agility are realities.
An often-overlooked benefit of IaaS and cloud computing is Business Continuity. For many SMEs, as with any size business, the loss of key data can be catastrophic. SMEs recognise the need to store data securely so that their business can be up and running again in the shortest timescale. However, traditionally off-site storage has often been prohibitive in terms of cost not to mention the difficulties faced trying to replicate the normal working environment. With IaaS, and a cloud provider such as Microsoft with their SLA of 99.9% uptime, worked stored in the cloud is instantly available should the worst happen to a locally saved copy.

PaaS

With Paas a consumer can utilise cloud computing to create applications or services. This might be using the platform for new development or building solutions from acquiring components using libraries, services along with tools supported by the provider. All this is possible to the user by accessing their web interface.
A typical consumer might be using PaaS to solve the following problems:

  • The size of development team is constantly changing making it difficult to keep up with hardware requirements
  • The cost of IT support is too high for a small development team
  • The skills needed depend on geographically dispersed individuals
  • There is a need for security, but no skills exist in-house
  • Flexibility to have a platform suited to specific requirements whilst maintaining cost-effectiveness
  • The need to adapt and change features as and when required as dynamically as possible

PaaS alleviates the above problems by allowing development companies to concentrate on their core activity of building applications rather than wasting resources creating in-house development platforms. As software projects evolve, companies often find themselves in the situation of having to rapidly bolster a development team. It can also be the case that fewer developers are needed once testing begins.
Either scenario makes it difficult for managers to predict hardware needs for the duration of a project. Whether PaaS is used primarily for website and mobile application development, or for packaged software, the advantages of a service that provides the architecture and the overall infrastructure necessary for application development are obvious.
Not only can a business avoid the expense of on-premises servers, but companies can also allow developers to work remotely. Thereby reducing office space costs and the expense of IT support. If skills are not available locally, the collaboration of geographically dispersed developers made possible by the cloud enables development companies to apply the right staff swiftly and at the same time avoid relocation expenses.
PaaS also provides security, data security, backup facilities and recovery management reducing the need to employ a specialist. The benefits of flexibility and adaptability to development are clear. A development company can choose the tools the provider is able to supply and create specific platforms. This also removes the risk of developers downloading unauthorised tools onto company resources.
For businesses that wish to remain developing software in-house, PaaS can still play a valuable role. If partway through a project it emerges that a particular feature is required or a component needs a language or set of tools not likely to be used regularly the business can rent the service, they need for a period rather than investing, installing, and supporting a one-off need.
Microsoft Azure allows companies to create highly available, infinitely scalable applications and APIs. Their PaaS enables you to develop, package and deploy powerful applications and services to the cloud at the click of a button. Once your application is deployed, that’s it: from provisioning and load-balancing to health monitoring, Azure handles the rest. Your application is backed by an industry-leading 99.95% monthly SLA.

SaaS

Software as a Service is also termed Software on Demand. This model means that rather than purchasing software, users subscribe, and access applications hosted in the cloud via the internet, normally on a monthly or yearly basis.
The benefits of SaaS are numerous and here are just a few:

  1. Users are not constrained by needing expensive and powerful hardware to run an application. The power needed is supplied by the provider.
  2. If circumstances change and users need additional storage for instance this can be made available ‘on-demand’. It is instantly available and eliminates the need to source new software or hardware.
  3. Automatic updates. These are available online to existing customers and makes waiting for updates and the ensuing installation a thing of the past.
  4. Device agnostic. Because SaaS is accessed via the internet any number of devices can be used. Users can access the same application whether using a laptop, desktop, iPad, smartphone, or any other internet enabled device.
  5. Increased mobility. For users constantly on the move or working off-site, access to information moves with them.
  6. Set-up costs and delay are eliminated. The applications the consumer needs are available as soon as they subscribe.

SaaS has enjoyed great popularity over the past few years. This will continue to rise as more and more enterprise applications become available. Application suppliers are moving their offerings to SaaS and away from purchased software. The opportunities are limitless and already many business use applications for such things as expense tracking, fleet management, legal and case management, planning, sales and CRM, communication, and accounting. With companies embracing mobility and collaboration, using SaaS allows for sharing and accessing information wherever staff may be. No longer do employees need to rush back to the office after a meeting to save information to a PC. Office applications are the most natural use of SaaS and those familiar with the Microsoft suite of products can transition to Office 365 at very low cost and instantly whether for a few users or several thousand.


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