When it comes to accessing the Cloud computing services offered by the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, there are a few different categories of services available. These are often referred to as the Cloud Computing Stack or Cloud Computing Building Blocks as they build on top of each other. There are four main Cloud services categories:
Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS for short, is the foundation level of Cloud computing. Rather than owning and operating their own IT infrastructure, businesses can leverage third-party IT services and assets such as servers, virtual machines (VM’s), storage, networks, firewalls, operating systems, and other infrastructure on an ongoing ‘as required’ basis typically billed based on usage (consumption).
Data storage and compute are the most commonly deployed IaaS services as they can easily be scaled to meet the variable demands of an organisation. A number of IT vendors now offer their services on an IaaS or consumption basis with an optional managed service. You can benefit from enterprise class capability without owning the underlying assets or having to worry about keeping them up to date.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the next step into the Cloud services providing the development and deployment tools in an on-demand integrated environment in the Cloud. While IaaS simply provides the infrastructure (servers, storage, firewalls, etc.), PaaS can provide everything from simple cloud-based apps to complete enterprise level cloud-enabled applications, business intelligence services, and data management services.
Serverless computing runs hand in hand with PaaS. No, it doesn’t mean that the servers running the code behind your Cloud services have been removed. It just refers to the fact that you will no longer have to see or manage that process yourself. Serverless computing manages, scales, provisions, and optimises the infrastructure behind your Cloud IT processes. By removing this burden from your business, you will find faster App run times, more efficient resource management, and a level of dynamic scalability.
Software as a service (SaaS) is the top level of Cloud service as it encompasses both IaaS and PaaS. SaaS allows for an organisation to access software applications (Office 365 or apps from Apple’s App Store for example) over the internet. The Apps and associated licences are all managed by the hosting Cloud service provider. This takes away any responsibility for software patches, updates and upgrades, security patches, maintenance, and all other associated labours that would otherwise have to be managed by the organisation themselves. SaaS is typically delivered on a subscription basis.
A Cautionary Note – it is important to realise that many cloud services (discreetly) place the onus for data protection such as backup and recovery on the consumer of the cloud service i.e. you! This is referred to as the Shared Responsibility Model.