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      What is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

      Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the on-demand delivery of computing resources over the internet, including networking, storage, and other infrastructural components. A category of cloud computing, IaaS relieves users of the need to maintain physical servers while also providing them the flexibility to provision and scale their resources as needed.

      IaaS cloud providers generally take on low-level infrastructure management responsibilities — like security, data partitioning, and backups. Unlike Platform as Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) categories of cloud computing, users have control over what infrastructure components they actually use and the software and tools they use with that infrastructure, like operating systems or development tools.

      IaaS is a popular option for businesses that wish to leverage the advantages of the cloud and have system administrators who can oversee the installation, configuration, and management of the infrastructure that they wish to use. IaaS is also used by developers, researchers, and others who wish to customize the underlying infrastructure of their computing environment

      For more educational resources related to IaaS, please visit:

      A complete list of our educational resources on infrastructure can be found on our Infrastructure page.

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      What are the Differences Between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS?

      Cloud technology has become exponentially more important for organizations over time. With a myriad of applications running on different cloud models, some work needs to be done to examine whether these solutions are a best fit to meet a company’s needs effectively and efficiently. Are you sure each application in your portfolio is using the right cloud model for your organization and end-users?

      Cloud computing is primarily comprised of three “as a service” models:

      • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
      • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
      • Software as a Service (SaaS)

      The primary differences between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS essentially boil down to how much of the stack you manage relative to the service provider. Depending on your need for flexibility and customization, each model has its pros and cons. For example, standard, unmanaged IaaS solutions require more monitoring and management than a fully packaged SaaS application, but offer the control and flexibility to deploy virtually any type of workload. The models you’ll choose depend largely on the functions of specific applications and needs of your IT operations.

      IaaS PaaS SaaS

      Below, we explore these models in detail to help you identify which model is best for your organizational requirements.

      Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

      IaaS provides a robust ability to distribute a compute stack—servers, storage, networking and operating software—while permitting users to consume only what they need while offloading infrastructure management tasks to their provider, as noted in the figure above. The organization or consumer will control the software (think Virtual Machines) but not the physical infrastructure that the virtual machines run on.

      Example of IaaS Solutions

      IaaS models encompass a wide range of hosted infrastructure: hyperscale public cloud, Dedicated Private Cloud (DPC), Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and bare metal. IaaS providers you’ll run into (including the one behind the blog your reading):

      • INAP Bare Metal using accessible API
      • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
      • Google Compute
      • Azure

      IaaS Limitations

      As the buyer, you will always want to run a Return on Investment (ROI) formula to ensure your budget, efficiency and workload are on target. Assume that some work time will be needed to train users and administrators as features, products and compute resources change.

      IaaS Exploration

      Ask yourself these questions when contemplating an IaaS solution:

      • Do we have the infrastructure in house to support our users/client base?
      • Would we save financial and individual resources with this model?
      • What are our current redundancy and compliance requirements or goals?

      IaaS with a Managed Service Provider

      Pairing managed services with an IaaS model offers efficiency for organizations looking for the highest security, network throughput, redundancy and cost effectiveness. Whether a company turns to managed services for monitoring, security or to optimize IT infrastructure, working with a managed service provider allows you to concentrate on mission critical applications while the provider manages the backend infrastructure. Managed services can also include network management, capacity planning, performance monitoring, continuous technical support and more.

      Be mindful that different providers offer different levels of services. For example, AWS and Azure fall on the self-managed side, while DPC and VPCs at INAP, on the other hand, are fully managed through the OS level, including monitoring.

      Platform as a Service (PaaS)

      PaaS is a computing platform delivered by a service provider that allows the client to develop, run and manage applications without needing to focus on infrastructure maintenance. The PaaS model is for organizations that do not want to manage or administer the essential foundation of network, hardware, storage and compute nodes, choosing instead to focus on software and application development and consumer use changes and needs.

      In the PaaS model, the solution stack might be a set of components or software subsystems used to develop a fully operational product or service. For example, the service could be a web application that uses an OS, web server, database and programming language. The solution stack might also deliver an OS, database, middleware or application. Your development team and administrators will manage the applications and usually the configuration and settings of the environment in this model, but not the operating system, update patching or hardware assessment.

      The PaaS model is greatly advantageous for a large development team with members working on distinctive and isolated action items in partnership, all without an in-person presence.

      Examples of PaaS Solutions

      • Windows Azure VM
      • Google App Engine
      • Linux Apache Stratos

      PaaS Limitations

      The most acknowledged limitation of the PaaS model is that clients are assigned to the PaaS vendor’s hardware inventory, which may not explicitly decide the application requirements without certain fine-tuning. Be aware that vendor lock-in is commonly cited for PaaS, as well.

      Another limitation is that data protection and network bandwidth are out of your organization’s immediate authority or supervision, which unfortunately could result in adverse unforeseen challenges.

      PaaS Exploration

      Ask yourself these questions when considering a PaaS solution:

      • Do we want to focus developing our applications with efficiency and minimal supervision of the hardware assets?
      • Is our application hardware and network limited to specialized hardware or CPU processors?
      • Can we allow for a minor risk of abrupt but controllable matters?

      Software as a Service (SaaS)

      SaaS is a model to distribute software online. The users of these products interact via a web browser or program interface and have no control of the compute resources, network, storage or operating systems. Users have no need for an IT department to install, perform quality assurance or patch the software being used, allowing them to meet their day-to-day work objectives. The software vendor handles these functions for you.  The software provider hosts the application at its data center.

      There are a few major characteristics that apply to most SaaS vendors:

      • Updates are applied automatically and no need for action on the customer’s end
      • Services are purchased via subscription
      • The customer is not required to install any hardware

      The SaaS model is in place for end users and consumers that have no understanding of (or need to understand) backend development or administration of the applications they use. Ultimately, they just want to open the software and use it with partial configuration, installation and time to learn.

      Examples of SaaS Solutions

      • Hubspot
      • Dropbox
      • Zoom
      • O365

      SaaS Limitations

      There are constraints with the SaaS model, such as unforeseen interruptions for critical patching, and limited end user customization of the software. The SaaS model generally requires specific versions or operating system, web browser or program interface installation that are out of the user’s realm of expertise or knowledge.

      SaaS Exploration

      Ask yourself these questions when considering a SaaS solution:

      • Can the software run in a browser or smart device for the users with limited administration?
      • Will our software be secure and stable for the users while also maintaining normal version releases?
      • Will the end user environment adapt to standard system configurations such as similar operating systems, processor speeds, memory available and internet access?
      • Is the software mission critical for organizations therefore not allowing any downtime?

      If the answer is YES to the last question, then SaaS is perhaps not the right choice for your organization.

      Moving Forward with a Best-Fit Cloud Model

      Consider the tools you are currently using and what makes them run behind the scenes. Many of these solutions are cloud-based and implemented via one of the three models we have described in this article: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. Are the solutions you currently use modeled in a way that’s optimal for your business?

      If you are considering expanding your online personnel or cloud development, confirm you understand the differences and ask the right questions. Our teams at INAP are always here to help address your needs in the efficient, cost effective and honest guidance, ensuring you find the best-fit cloud model for your company’s needs.

      Explore INAP Cloud.


      Allan Williamson
      • Technical Account Manager


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      IaaS Explained: Take a Tour Through “Cloud Town” (INFOGRAPHIC)

      Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a fast-growing category of cloud computing that provides IT staff the flexibility to deploy virtual compute and storage resources in a service provider’s data center with application specific configurations. Users can manage the environments themselves or leverage the services of the provider or a third party for additional support and efficiencies.

      Although major public cloud players like AWS and Microsoft Azure tend to dominate the IaaS discussion, such hyperscale platforms are not the only model for success. To help readers navigate the many nuances of the IaaS marketplace, we lovingly built the following interactive infographic: Iaas for Business, Explained.

      Click the image below to begin your tour of “Cloud Town” or read on for some highlights.

      So why the city and building metaphor? Because much like people choosing where to live based on diverse socio-economic, lifestyle and family considerations, workload and application placement in the cloud is predicated on a series of comparable factors – e.g. economics, security, performance requirements, range of managed services, data center location, etc.   

      Cloud Town showcases residents of four distinct neighborhoods: Public Cloud District, Dedicated Private Cloud Gated Community, Virtual Private Cloud Townhomes, and On-Premisville. Here are a few select snapshots.

      Public Cloud  

      Public clouds are virtualized, multi-tenant environments. Hyperscale providers offer global redundancy, pay-as-you consume pricing models, and instant scalability. While easy to spin up and scale, determining how to  manage, secure and optimize resources across cloud and on-premises platforms can be challenging.

      Dedicated Private Cloud

      Dedicated Private Clouds are fully isolated environments custom designed from single-tenant compute nodes. These hosted environments are ideal for applications with predictable performance requirements or  require complex architectures and highly customized configurations.

      Virtual Private Cloud

      Virtual Private Clouds are logically isolated multi-tenant environments that offer consistent performance and easy-to-scale compute resources that are ideal for applications with significant variable resource requirements.

      The drive through Cloud Town builds to an important conclusion:

      So where’s the best place to live in Cloud Town? There’s no right answer. That’s because it’s not the physical home that matters — it all comes down to the diverse needs of residents and families.

      In fact, most denizens of the cloud won’t stay put in one environment . . .

      The concept ‘multicloud’ is quickly becoming an apt descriptor for many modern IT strategies. It’s sort of like accommodating the needs of several generations of a family at once. Unless you’re in a 90s sitcom, not everyone’s going to fit under one roof.

      If you’re exploring Infrastructure as a Service solutions for your applications, you’re in the right place. Whether you need help designing and managing an AWS or Azure deployment or need a hyper-secure, high-powered environment for your critical applications, SingleHop has managed solutions and certified engineers to help you navigate every cloud lifestyle. We hope you enjoy the tour! 

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