One of the major innovations the cloud brought with it is the as-a-service model. The combination of traditional IT infrastructure, platform, software and data as well a barrage of other sub-categories the cloud has a lot to offer to the enterprise – above all superior offerings almost always aligned with greater cost-efficiency.
Each of the 3 primary members of the as-a-Service family – IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service) – has its own benefits. However scalability is one trait shared by all, starting with IaaS, sometimes also referred to as Hardware as a Service.
IaaS enables a company to outsource IT equipment including servers and networking components to a 3rd party provider, as well as automate otherwise costly in-house administrative tasks, while (usually) paying on a per-use basis. IaaS however is a provisioning model, which offers more flexibility but not as much simplicity as Platform-as-a-Service.
There are several key differences between IaaS and PaaS. PaaS gives companies access to a pre-installed and integrated development environment on a subscription or per-use basis without having to manage the underlying hardware. IaaS offerings do require the enterprise to manage its rented infrastructure, but hence give clients more operational flexibility. Despite their differences however, many experts believe IaaS and PaaS are converging as key industry players begin to see the potential behind a unified cloud offering combining simplicity with flexibility. A recent Data Center Knowledge article for example highlighted AWS Elastic Beanstalk, which offers PaaS functionality on top of an IaaS platform, as a key offering in this steady convergence. The article also noted Microsoft next to BeanStalk, which does the exact opposite to the latter and offers an IaaS platform over its Azure PaaS platform.
Moving to the 3rd key element of the cloud as-a-Service market, SaaS offerings address a different area to IaaS and PaaS, and can be divided into two main types:
Hosted applications such as Google Apps for Business deliver software over the web, and initially reduce software license costs by billing on a per user or business basis. The second type of SaaS offerings however, software on demand, provides a customer access to a single copy of a network-based application specifically created for SaaS distribution.
The entire as-a-service model is expected to see tremendous growth in the near future. In a recent report Cisco cites IaaS as the segment of cloud computing which gets the most market attention, with 25 percent of enterprises planning to adopt via a 3rd part provider. Moreover, a market study by Research and Markets reveal PaaS generated 1.5% of the total application development market revenues, and that the U.S SaaS market grew by 17.04% to $9BN in 2009.
As the as-a-Service market evolves within the cloud it will gain more and more traction. This may even eliminate the bulk of the enterprise’s concerns around moving to the cloud via new and increasingly sophisticated offerings addressing data in the cloud, and tear down the barrier in front of the next generation of IT innovations.