IaaS vs PaaS vs Saas: Tips On the Cloud Trifecta

Cloud technology is enjoying marked success as companies move from “occasional” use to mainstream adoption. Consider the rise of soft-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings; according to IT Pro Portal, more than 1,400 new SaaS companies have emerged over the last five years and this $8 billion market should reach more than $50 billion by 2026. For many businesses, however, it’s easy to get bogged down in terminology—IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS—and miss the technology’s potential ROI. Here’s what you need to know about the cloud computing trifecta.

Software as a service

By far the most popular and straightforward type of cloud computing, SaaS offers entry-level cloud technology access for companies of any size. The easiest way to understand this service? Think in terms of applications. Almost any app currently hosted on local servers or stored on PC hard drives can be moved the cloud. Instead of taking up valuable server space and network resources, all necessary code is stored off site. More importantly, all the “heavy lifting” of computation, analysis, and data storage are also handled by cloud servers. The result? You get high-performance, high-availability applications without the need to maintain hardware or upgrade software. Typically, you’ll pay monthly for access to the cloud itself and then a per-device or per-user fee for the software. SaaS is also the easiest cloud “entry point” for employees because many already use cloud services—such as email clients or social media sites—and are comfortable with the concept.

Infrastructure as a service

At the other end of the cloud is IaaS. Here the idea is to leverage virtual machines (VMs) in place of physical servers, meaning you’re not on the hook for big CAPEX spending or regular hardware upgrading. You’re able to put anything you want on these VMs—whatever platform, software, monitoring tools, or security solutions work best for your business—but they’re ultimately housed and maintained off site. Typically, IaaS is leveraged by companies that want total control over their virtual computing environment and have enough full-time IT staff to make the most of VM environments. While it’s possible to run IaaS in a public cloud environment, many enterprises now choose a hybrid or private model to maximize data and resource security.

Platform as a service

In the middle, you’ll find PaaS. As noted by Network World, it’s not a “finished product” like SaaS offerings, nor is it the “blank slate” of IaaS. Instead, PaaS provides a way for IT teams to develop services and applications for a specific platform. Developers and IT ops professionals get all the tools they need to build apps, social sites, mobile offerings, and websites—along with the APIs and tools needed to “hook” these offerings into the larger infrastructure of your cloud provider.

It’s worth noting that with so many as-a-service options on the market—from database to analytics to security to communications—two trends have emerged. First, the maturing cloud market has created a significant shift toward the simplicity of SaaS for even mission-critical tools and services; second, the ubiquity of cloud computing has driven down the average price of entry.

Bottom line? A little knowledge of the cloud trifecta goes a long way to selecting the ideal deployment for your business.