Three's a Cloud: Understanding SaaS, IaaS and PaaS

June 8, 2012 by Jonathan Watkins
Three's a Cloud: Understanding SaaS, IaaS and PaaS
Cloud computing experiences differ depending on the user, with a range of individuals, businesses and organizations all utilizing the service in a variety of ways.

The understanding of cloud computing therefore depends on what you are using it for, as there are so many uses warranting different descriptions. Whether you are operating the service via an online email provider, your iPod or through web hosting, the cloud can reach out to computer users globally as the phenomenon sweeps worldwide.

Below is the analysis of three forms of cloud services which you may come across. This provides quick and easy-to-remember information on what they do, why they do it and who uses the service.

• (SaaS) Software as a Service

In a nutshell: Also known as ‘on-demand software’ it is essentially software provided via the internet. The data is contained on the cloud accessible via the internet.

Do you use it? If you are reading this then the answer is yes, almost certainly. If you are an internet user on a regular basis you are likely to have come into contact with this particular service. This can be through anything that connects to the internet including mobile phones.

Benefits: Three simple attributes sum the benefits of this service up; secure, cost efficient and web-based. If you have used them, you’ll know and appreciate the benefits, with no installation or cost required for such services as email providers and social networking sites.

Sounds Familiar? Businesses programs such as Salesforce operate a SaaS service, and for individuals anything from Gmail and Yahoo to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

• (IaaS) Infastructure as a Service

In a nutshell: Sometimes referred to as Hardware-as-a-Service, it’s a model which is used to outsource various equipment used for operations support, this is distributed from datacenters with large pools of resources. This includes firewalls, storage and networks. The service provider generally runs and maintains the equipment and distributes it on a pay-per-use system.

Do you use it? This is generally opted for by enterprises that use the platform as a way to receive their servers, hardware and storage space.

Benefits: It makes business environments more organized, is cost effective due to essentially renting the service rather than purchasing and maintaining it yourself and provides extra storage space for businesses.

Sounds Familiar? Examples of programs utilizing this service include RightScales, Rackspace Cloud, and Amazon CloudFormation.

• (PaaS)

In a nutshell: This is a platform service provider which gives you the ability to produce and develop web applications via the internet. The user utilizes the service to create software using tools provided by the server, also allowing the consumer to configure settings to suit their needs and requirements.

Do you use it? This is used by software companies and developers to create custom web applications without the stress and bother of setting up servers and databases.

Benefits: It enables you to produce web apps and takes away the process of purchasing and running the underlying hardware and software therefore reducing costs. It offers developers application development, deployment and hosting, along with other useful applications. This also enables them to deliver their web applications quicker, and also minimizes operational costs and time-to-market.

Sounds Familiar? Some examples of this used by software companies and developers which will ring a bell are Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure.

About the author

Jonathan is a senior writer covering web hosting and tech news on Jonathan graduated from the University of Brighton with a BA (Hons) in Journalism and since then has been working for various websites, magazines and newspapers.

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