In our previous post here we gave a brief description of “cloud” computing and described its three main types of deployment: Public, Private, and Hybrid. Today we’ll finish up by describing the three major cloud service models: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
The most common type of cloud service has been around for years, and is commonly known as (SaaS, pronounced sass) or software as a service. It provides a complete software application, served up from the Internet (thus, it’s a ‘service’), normally via your standard web browser (i.e., Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, etc.). At it’s best, SaaS reduces upfront capital costs for hardware (PCs, etc.) in the office, and can get up and running quickly. As an example, Google Docs offers a suite of software applications from the cloud that provide a competitor to Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) Of course, Microsoft itself offers Microsoft Office 365 to exploit similar capabilities. Utilizing this service, users can be anywhere in the world where they have an Internet connection and a browser, and tap into, edit, update and share their documents worldwide.
Platform as a Service is geared toward application developers (again, via a web browser) and provides the underlying infrastructure and development tools needed to build and deploy cloud applications that are delivered on demand. It allows developers to stay current with the latest tools in their arena, and enables them to stay more productive. It’s intended to shorten the time and effort required for in-house developers to develop, modify and distribute their applications across a broad base of users.
Finally, Infrastructure as a Service provides network builders and architects with computing, storage and networking resources on a foundation built for scalability and flexibility. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft, among many others, are building out these mega-platforms that they intend to have serve the future of computing needs for thousands, even millions of users and firms worldwide. Think of these as the next utility “grid”. The payoff will be in terms of lowered infrastructure costs for users (it’s a pay as you go rental model) that can scale immediately: all you have to do is contract for more resources. You no longer have to build it, or buy and manage the hardware, you simply open the spigot (and the wallet) to more service. You don’t spend money on resources you don’t need or use, and conversely, when you do need more, those resources are there quickly.
As readers will note, cloud is real, it’s here today, and it’s growing quickly. Knowing which parts of the cloud paradigm are right for you, and when, is of course a much more complicated question, one best discussed with your IT provider. It’s a technology platform that is both inevitable, and in the earliest of stages. It took the Internet to make it possible. And it took a couple decades to make the Internet ubiquitous. Look for cloud computing to have just as much impact on your life and business – only probably faster.