Cloud Rewind: SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS: Which Enables Cloud for Your Business?

SaaS, IaaS, PaaS

SaaS, IaaS, or PaaS: Which enables cloud for your business?

Recently we’ve seen a lot of talk about SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS in the cloud realm. Here we present a refresher on the three approaches to help you decide which is right for your business. This post was originally published November 20th, 2012.

The economic reasoning and value drivers in cloud are inherent. As we’ve written about many times before, there are a range of very significant business and technical reasons to move to cloud: Cost reduction, scalability, reduction in both CAPEX OPEX, and much more. But with so many variations of cloud, its helpful to take a step back and consider the benefits and application of each.

So why choose SaaS?

Software-as-a-service is the low hanging fruit where cloud is concerned. Its usage is ubiquitous, and most of us have used it so often we cannot fully account for everywhere we interact with it. In essence, if you use Gmail, use digital cable TV or even Netflix, you are using software-as-a-service. Why use it? Well you can t not use it. In fact, the model it proposes is the template for how other IT services, from development to basic infrastructure to other applications are increasingly being consumed or even conceived. Without the burden of a disk or software a user has to put on their computer (and with it, the inherent upkeep), productivity in the workplace (or at home with on-demand gaming, TV and movies) is a much faster proposition.


 IaaS: Cloud’s path of least resistance into big business

IaaS is the easiest entry into “cloud” services for the traditional enterprise. These businesses are used to talking about infrastructure fora range of needs, and IaaS simply presents an alternative way of buying those resources. IaaS shifts a bucket for the enterprise (and businesses of scale broadly) – instead of buying a server, they rent one. . Virtualization is now incorporated, as is abstracting storage methods, but the key value comes in the way it shifts CAPEX and OPEX to different levels, and sometimes even off the books. At the heart of it, the chief value proposition of cloud lies in the incremental changes to how a business can leverage IT, shifting it from upkeep to innovation; reaction to strategy. The reality, however,  is that IaaS is simply a fulfilled promise, not some radical new notion of IT or an uncanny gap between where a business is and where it wants to be. For these businesses, IaaS (outside of the various business units using SaaS) is the validation of the promise of IT, as well as the path of least resistance for joining the cloud.

Infrastructure as a service will need to adapt to the market. It has a relatively big market in the enterprise, among companies that are not yet cloud enabled or who have yet to assign large portions of their infrastructural to an outsourced virtual system. This adoption trend does present some hurdles, moving traditional IT to an outsourced mode, or even moving development from internal resources to a PaaS paradigm. Software as a service will only continue to grow. The people developing on PaaS will eventually become SaaS providers, and all of this is being developed on IaaS. Pretty neat, huh?

PaaS is the next horizon…

PaaS has the potential to be a truly innovative approach to how businesses leverage cloud, with plenty of proof to claim such already. It fuses the best aspects of both SaaS and IaaS allowing developers to seamlessly create applications while spinning up infrastructure resources at will. PaaS can even eventually usurp IaaS for the cloud of choice because it lets developers create platforms and business models and not even have to go to the level of infrastructure. Google’s app engine, which is a PaaS for Python, is one of the most popular PaaS platforms. The hugely successful blogging engine Tumblr is built on it. Tumblr has no infrastructure, and there’s nothing for them to scale as they bring on new users, since its built in cloud the infrastructure requirements it has are automatically provisioned through the Google app engine. PaaS, though currently a smaller movement, has the potential to take a significant bite out of the IaaS market. IaaS of course will never go away, but IaaS is still complex. You need staff to translate between application developers and system admins, design engineers, networks engineers to round out how IaaS can be full leveraged. A software designer might be looking at PaaS since it requires far less coordination and resources to achieve a similar level of application power. At its essence, IaaS wont go away, but it will become a vastly different paradigm as PaaS increasingly gains a market foothold.

By Jake Gardner

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