What is Infrastructure as a Service?
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is a standardized cloud computing service that delivers essential on-demand computing, storage, security, and networking resources in a virtualized subscription format over the internet. The consumers of an IaaS have the complete liberty to configure, scale, shrink, and restructure any service for their organization on an as-needed basis with excellent flexibility. They can also minimize their financial costs based on a convenient pay-as-you-go model.
IaaS emerged as the demand grew for better and more efficient hardware management platforms. This was alongside an increasing need for next-generation, internet-based computing solutions that enabled scalable and accessible resource management systems.
As the speed of the internet increased and became more accessible to the public, cloud computing grew in popularity. Big companies such as AWS began in 2006 to offer virtualized infrastructure resources and management tools as a service, paving the path to move away from on-premise hardware to cloud-based solutions like IaaS.
Today, there’s a plethora of IaaS providers that dominate the market. Some examples include DigitalOcean, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.
IaaS is part of a collection of infrastructure tools such as servers, networking and storage hardware, and provisionable, virtual computing available for customer allocation. It combines the best attributes of bare-metal hosting and scalability of large data centers — providing rapid resource allocation from multiple servers in data centers over the internet to deploy and manage any complete application stack.
An individual or an organization can connect to servers and databases with remote access, set up and configure their proprietary enterprise apps and services, and support their customers without any concerns about performance and availability issues with managing on-premise hardware.
IaaS is often compared and contrasted with the platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) cloud computing models. IaaS forms the foundational layers of both PaaS and SaaS, enabling rapid application development over ecosystems in the case of PaaS, and specialized software applications delivered to the customers entirely from the cloud.
On the other hand, SaaS products are complete, packaged software services you can offer to end-users in a paid model. SaaS essentially abstracts away the entirety of the compute stack as it offers applications that run either on the web browser or are downloaded and used by end-users directly, without any contact whatsoever, with the platform underneath. Examples of SaaS products include Dropbox and Slack.
Benefits of IaaS
There’s a multitude of reasons why IaaS services are sought after. The primary reason is that they significantly reduce the upfront capital requirements you need to start working with specialized hardware. At the same time, they also enable you to focus on your core business product.
Let’s explore some of the benefits of IaaS in more detail.
Neatly packaged IaaS services enable you to allocate only the necessary resources and help manage your spending as you scale. IaaS also ensures that your SLAs (service level agreements) are met. This, in turn, also helps reduce your overall costs for both short and long-term business operations.
IaaS comes with guaranteed availability and scalability for your needs by automating load balancing, clustering, and multi-zone availability to maintain application performance. Scalability comes with the efficient provisioning of resources according to the present and predicted future workloads that come with application growth and an increasing user base.
With on-premise hardware, scaling to high availability and keeping up with the application growth and continuity becomes labor-intensive, requiring a significant amount of technical headcount in the business. However, with an IaaS, your business requirements are always at the forefront for you and your teams, as any computing infrastructure is readily accessible regardless of any failover in the case of emergencies or disasters.
Increase Production Speed
Growth in any business is never static, and keeping up with users’ needs will most likely need incremental app improvements and feature rollouts. With IaaS, developing, launching, and growing a new application aligned with your business goals is faster. IaaS decreases the time needed to ship the app to your users. Still, it also guarantees the availability of resources for consumption at any scale without you worrying over the underlying low-level provisioning details.
Security and Support
High levels of automation for critical security of the deployed applications, failover support, backup services, and recovery services all come from modern IaaS service providers. These services are generally more configurable and manageable than in-house computing hardware.
Let’s discuss some common IaaS use cases and learn where it’s best suited.
The cost of setup and the complexities of management make storing data challenging. Hiring skilled data engineers and employing some legal support is necessary to keep data stored securely. Still, even with a solid team, you’re likely to face challenges with scaling and security when storing data — especially in large amounts.
IaaS helps you with your growing data storage in the form of both memory and disk-based databases (such as Redis), SQL databases (such as MySQL and PostgreSQL), and NoSQL databases (such as MongoDB). Not only can these IaaS databases scale on demand, but they also enable you to encrypt your data to maintain security.
Running and managing testing and development cycles for your project is ideally suited for IaaS, which profits from instantaneous access to any amount of required computing, storage, and networking power. Enterprise applications that need high-security levels and service level agreements (SLAs) for running critical business applications can be profitably serviced by IaaS.
If your applications need significant test coverage to be deployed to production, IaaS helps bring development testing environments up and running in minutes instead of hours. Examples of these include functional testing, stress testing, load testing, and system performance testing.
High-Performance Computing Needs
There are several areas in which IaaS services are highly favorable. The most fundamental need met by IaaS is when the requirement is extremely resource-intensive — as high-performance is critical to avoid latency and other errors. These needs typically include a large-scale deployment of customer-facing websites and applications on the cloud, like financial apps and marketing websites. Namely, IaaS can handle “big data,” making it a valuable resource for building apps that rely on machine learning and data analysis.
Since IaaS does so well with high-performance computing, the benefits extend even to the world of complex websites and web applications. On-demand IaaS services readily meet infrastructure requirements for supporting scalable and performant web apps. If you’re developing SaaS products for your end-users, running a business-to-business (B2B) application with high computing and traffic needs, or if you need custom app activity, data control requirements, and network configurability, you’ll find IaaS services makes the process smoother.
Additionally, an IaaS platform can integrate with your business intelligence tools at scale. With a lower capital expenditure and significantly lower amount of required on-site technical expertise, IaaS gives you a much more performant and scalable system to run all your workloads.
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is a standardized cloud computing service you can use to access on-demand services virtually.
- IaaS has deservedly become the foundation for major emerging businesses in recent years. By fulfilling the infrastructure needs, IaaS drives innovation in technology more rapidly and efficiently than on-premise systems.
- Benefits of using IaaS include ease of setup, availability, and scalability.
- Common IaaS use cases range from web applications, data storage, creating add-on services, and disaster recovery.
- IaaS helps your organization secure a competitive advantage in delivering the desired products and services to your end-users in the most focused and cost-effective manner.