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Introduction to IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

IaaS
Matthew Hayhow

By Matthew Hayhow Web Journalist, Updated 17 May 2017

Alongside Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is one of the three dominant cloud computing services. It is used to provide access to virtualised computing resources via the web. Windows Azure, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace Open Cloud, Google Compute Engine, and IBM Smartcloud Enterprise are all leading IaaS providers.

IaaS platforms have scalable components and can be adjusted as needed. They are therefore ideal for changeable, experimental and temporary workloads. The model works as follows: a third-party hosts users’ software, storage, hardware, and other infrastructure components. User applications are also hosted by IaaS providers, and they also manage tasks such as backup, system maintenance, and resiliency plans. Other features of IaaS comprise automated administration tasks, desktop virtualisation, agile scaling, and policy-based services.

IaaS providers sometimes charge customers for the amount of virtual machine space they use, but typically IaaS customers pay per-use by the month, week or hour. This model cuts out the cost of setting up in-house software and hardware. It is recommended, however, that customers check their IaaS service to ensure they are not being charged for unwarranted services.

It can be extremely cost-effective for companies developing new software products to test and host their applications via an IaaS provider. The application can then be taken out of the IaaS environment, once it has been approved and refined, before going on to be deployed in-house, creating space for other projects and saving money.

Benefits of IaaS

Below are some of the key benefits of IaaS for business to consider:

Scalability

This is because resources are available as and when needed, there is no waste (in the form of unused capacity) or delays in capacity expansion.

No hardware cost

The cloud provider sets up and maintains the hardware that supports the IaaS platform. This saves money and time for users.

Pay as you use

Users only pay for what they actually use, and the service is available on-demand.

Remote access

All that is needed to access the service is an internet connection, so it can be accessed from anywhere (provided that the cloud’s security protocol allows it).

Better security

Public clouds, or externally-hosted private clouds, benefit from the extra security of servers hosted in data centres.

Robust performance

Due to the sheer number of redundancy configurations and hardware resources in place, if a server or network switch fails, the wider service should be unaffected. In some cases, if the entire data centre goes offline the IaaS should continue to operate successfully.

Disadvantages of IaaS

While IaaS can be beneficial, there are some potential pitfalls to be aware of. For example, user workloads can be affected if the IaaS provider has downtime. Also, system monitoring and management may prove difficult for users of IaaS because IaaS providers own the infrastructure.

Examples of IaaS

The following are some examples as to how IaaS can be used by businesses:

Cloud hosting

Hosting websites in the cloud is beneficial because it mitigates the vulnerability of physical servers. Unexpected demands and scalability can also be handled more easily in the cloud.

Virtual Data Centres

A network of virtual servers that are interconnected can provide superior cloud hosting abilities, enterprise-level IT infrastructure, or the ability to integrate all of these processes in a public or private cloud.

Expansion and security

Virtual local area networks and private clouds can be used by businesses to run day-to-day applications and store data.

Private clouds

Accessible only by employees of the business - can help keep data confidential and provide more secure transfer of data. This infrastructure can be scaled by expanding businesses to match growth.

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