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Up In The Cloud: Infrastructure As A Service
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Up In The Cloud: Infrastructure As A Service - Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Infrastructure As A Service

Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Infrastructure As A Service

Cloud layers

Cloud services can loosely be categorized by three models. At the outermost, consumer layer is Software as a Service, for which customers pay a subscription price to use application software. Rather than purchasing software for installation on specific devices, SaaS lets users rent applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, and email clients. The advantages include access from any web-connected device and always having the latest versions of software.

One layer deeper is Platform as a Service. Rather than paying to use specifically-tasked apps, subscribers pay to use operating systems, analytics tools, databases, and development tools, all in the cloud. Please see our earlier article about Platform as a Service for a better look at the concept.

What is IaaS?

Beneath PaaS is Infrastructure as a Service. If you imagine cloud services as building rentals, SaaS is like a tenth-floor suite with offices, conference rooms, a kitchen, desks, chairs, computers, printers, copiers, and a coffee maker. PaaS is the same suite but without any of the furnishings or appliances. It’s undoubtedly an office space, but you move your team in and use it the way that works best for you, bringing in specialized furniture and tools specific to your business.

IaaS is more like just tenth floor, wired for electricity, with working plumbing, but with no walls or carpets. You want walls? You bring them in and put them where you want. Turn the space into a roller rink. Make it a paintball field or an Airbnb. And if you want to pay for it, expand to the floors above and below, too, even if just for a few hours.

Advantages and cautions

With Infrastructure as a Service, you’re paying for access to the physical computers and servers wherever the cloud’s data center is. You pay for the firewalls and security the provider does its best to ensure. But if you want to run a bunch of applications, you install the operating system, you manage the licensing and usage, and you set the storage quotas for your users. It’s a level of deep-dish involvement many people may never need, but it offers quick flexibility as needed. Today it’s a roller rink, but tomorrow it could be a gym or a restaurant, according to the whims or requirements of your business.

The biggest concerns when operating with Infrastructure as a Service are security and service management. You pay for the server space and computing power you use, so if some ongoing tasks are left unattended even when your team has stopped actually using them, you’re paying for infrastructure you aren’t even using. Security at its deepest level is managed by the service provider, but it’s up to you and your team to make sure all your stuff is running with the latest patches and security updates. It’s also possible that people you’re sharing infrastructure with, say some other company on the other side of the planet, aren’t keeping their walls leak-proof, and this can lead to your own security being compromised. Cloud service providers should keep an eye out for this, but they’re there to make sure nobody gets into the building who doesn’t belong there. They don’t necessarily keep an eye on what every tenant (or guest of a tenant) is up to.

You probably don’t need it

Chances are that if you don’t already know this very simplified concept of Infrastructure as a Service, you don’t need it. You’ll know when you do because your cloud service will suddenly not provide for you everything your IT department says you need. Still, it’s good to be aware: if you’re operating at SaaS and find yourself restricted, take a look into PaaS. And when PaaS doesn’t offer you the freedom you need, you know it’s time to consider IaaS. Happy expanding!


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