Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a powerful cloud computing model that delivers plenty of promise for many businesses. Learn about this important cloud service model and its advantages and disadvantages in the article below.
Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS, is a model of Cloud services that allows an organisation to operate as if they physically own and maintain their own infrastructure, maintaining control over O/S, middleware, runtime, applications, and data — but without actually owning that IT infrastructure. It gives organisations on-demand access to compute power and a way to sidestep the significant obstacles to scaling on-premises infrastructure.
In this model, the cloud provider maintains the hardware (infrastructure), handling IT infrastructure management and thus freeing the business from the distractions of keeping servers running, healthy, and upgraded.
IaaS, Infrastructure as a Service, is an essential cloud computing solution for businesses of all sizes in which a provider manages hardware components such as servers, networking equipment, storage, and operating systems. IaaS allows companies to access these resources virtually instead of having to maintain them in physical datacenters. IaaS vendors offer services that are hosted on powerful and secure hardware in their own cloud infrastructure. This makes IaaS an attractive option for organizations looking to outsource their hosting needs and free up IT staff from certain maintenance tasks while increasing flexibility, scalability, and security measures. IaaS is rapidly becoming one of the most popular cloud types among businesses due to its fast set-up and potential cost savings compared to traditional methods.
You’ll often find IaaS discussed in comparison to Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). The difference between the three can be summed up as differences in the amount of customer control.
With SaaS tools and platforms, organisations give up the most control and in exchange have the least amount of resource and maintenance requirements. PaaS is in the middle, often used as a sort of sandbox for developers, who can develop freely without worrying about maintaining the infrastructure or O/S underlying their work.
IaaS is further on the spectrum, giving organisations more control (and thus more responsibility or resource commitment) — but still without the need for specialists to maintain the infrastructure or the spiky costs that come with growth or scaling.
As such, IaaS is often a foundational part of Cloud transformation at the enterprise level. The complexity of the offering (on the vendor’s part) is another way to consider the difference. From the vendor’s perspective, IaaS is the simplest offering: it’s simply offering computing power to a customer. Everything else — how the computing power is used — is up to the customer. Compare this with SaaS, where the vendor must produce and support everything down to the software level and the customer merely uses the software.
IaaS delivers numerous advantages to enterprise organisations and even to smaller firms. When you’re developing your IT strategy, it would pay to consider these benefits of IaaS compared to on-premises, internally managed IT infrastructure.
The biggest draw to the Cloud in general is the near-infinite scalability: gain access to however much or little storage and compute with a pay-as-you-go model.
Scaling up on-premises capability is costly: the IT infrastructure is expensive, as is the labor associated with physically installing and then configuring new equipment. But even more significant is the time involved. There is a gap, sometimes a significant one, between the moment a business decides to add on-premises server capacity and the moment that new server capacity becomes available.With IaaS, new server capacity is just a few clicks away.
The costs associated with on-premises include the costs for the infrastructure itself, the salaries for those operating and maintaining the infrastructure, the physical real estate required to house the infrastructure, and more.
While there can be a great range in price in Cloud services, depending on availability requirements and whether an organisation chooses private cloud, public cloud or even hybrid cloud, but if cost is a driver behind decision-making it is typically feasible to lower costs by switching to the cloud.
The cloud also makes costs more predictable, either using a steady monthly cost or a predictable pay-for-what-you-use approach.
Building out and maintaining IT infrastructure isn’t easy. With IaaS, you move all that complexity out of your IT operations, and your cloud provider takes over the responsibility. Your provider benefits through economy of scale, and you benefit by gaining relatively easy access to virtually unlimited resources.
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Related to our discussion of scalability above, IaaS in cloud computing enables flexible growth.
Every business experiences growing pains. For example, imagine a small organisation with too much accounting work for one person but not enough work (or budget) for two. When accounting becomes the bottleneck inhibiting growth, the small business is in a seemingly intractable position.
Translate this idea to IT infrastructure at any level, from small business to enterprise: on paper, the answer may be as simple as “add another server.” But in practice, doing so is complex and cannot happen quickly. And what do you do with all that additional capacity if you hit a slowdown or a seasonal lull? Managing infrastructure internally is inherently inflexible. But relying on IaaS gives organisations the ability to grow, shrink, reallocate and evolve — flexibly and nearly effortlessly.
Security has the potential to be both an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on how you look at it.
On the one hand, the various IaaS cloud providers are some of the largest tech companies on the planet: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and so on. Frankly, it’s pure hubris for most organisations to believe their own internal staff can outperform industry titans like these, who are investing millions annually in teams and technology to advance cyber defenses. So in terms of raw security resources, most cloud providers easily dwarf most client businesses.
Cloud services can unlock innovation at a business as well: when your IT specialists can focus solely on building new products and services — rather than dealing with distractions as they must also keep the infrastructure working properly — their innovation potential rises.
When you’re no longer burdened with procurement, installation, and maintenance, you free resources to spend their time on more productive tasks. Similarly, the scalability limitations of on-premises can lower productivity as your team works at less than its fullest due to computing, speed or storage limitations.
When no one on your team has to worry about any of the infrastructure — when and how to expand or upgrade, why that particular server is down yet again, and so on — your team is freed both to innovate and to be as productive as possible.
When you choose a high-performing IaaS provider, you’ll typically experience reduced downtimes. Here again the size, scale, and raw resources available to a cloud provider give such businesses the ability to respond faster, to set up more redundancies, and to avoid downtime in the first place.
For most businesses, there’s hardly a comparison between internal capabilities to resolve outages and the capabilities of a typical cloud provider.
Before your business dives headlong into the world of IaaS, be aware of these disadvantages to the model.
The client organisation retains responsibility for everything that runs in an IaaS environment (O/S, runtime, software, etc.). Therefore responsibility for maintaining, updating, and upgrading falls to the business, not the cloud provider.
There are of course many reasons why this arrangement makes sense or is even preferable. But this level of responsibility may be a drawback for organisations desiring a fully hands-off approach.
Organisations that rely on IaaS for key infrastructure capabilities become dependent on their IaaS provider. While the odds are minuscule, if your cloud provider suddenly ceased operating or suffered a catastrophic failure, your business operations could be compromised.
This disadvantage is one reason why disaster recovery strategies must include multiple strategies with failover: it’s a mistake to put all your disaster-recovery eggs in one IaaS basket.
Along the same lines, IaaS users have less control over their data. Anything stored on a cloud server is ultimately in the hands of the cloud provider, subject to their policies and security practices. While most businesses should have no difficulty finding a cloud provider whose security policies line up well with their own, those in highly regulated industries should exercise caution.
At the same time, you do lose a bit of control over security when you choose IaaS. If your provider fails to keep their servers secure, it’s your data and processes at risk — and there’s little to nothing you can do about it. Make sure when selecting an IaaS provider that you understand their service level agreement (SLA) and that they are compliant with whatever security protocols or industry regulations you require.
If your organisation needs the ability to analyse large sets of data but wants the most control over how this is accomplished, IaaS is an ideal solution. The same is true if you need access to scalable, on-demand computing power: IaaS solutions deliver unmatched scalability and allow you to grow your computing power far faster than is possible internally. Where does IaaS fit in your IT strategy? Read on here.
Last, if you need a more malleable environment for testing and development, IaaS is worth considering. PaaS often fills this need, but when you need to control the platform elements, IaaS is the right choice.
Cloud computing, including IaaS, is a key part of most organisations’ digitally transformed future. While there remains a place for on-premises and edge computing, the days of running an entire IT estate from servers in the basement are coming to an end for the typical business.
Why? Because cloud solutions offer power, flexibility, stability, and scalability that few could hope to match internally. In most scenarios, the cloud simply makes the best sense.
Is your business considering upgrading your existing IT infrastructure? Or is your IT group crumbling under the weight of maintaining infrastructure internally?
If so, consider whether IaaS (among other cloud models) is the right next step for your business.
Canon Business Services ANZ is here to assist you, wherever your IT future takes you. We offer best-in-class IT consulting and support, across on premise, private, public and hybrid cloud environments and can guide you to the optimal mix of solutions tailored to your unique needs.
If your organisation is ready to modernise, simplify, or scale, an IaaS solution may be the answer. Reach out to our team today, and we’ll set up a consultation to determine your ideal next steps.