Cloud Stack Consideration: Choosing Between SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS

Two decades ago, when you wanted to install a new program on a computer, it meant installing multiple 3.5” disks one at a time.

Soon, this process gave way to CD-ROMs. (Remember the AOL install disks?)

Now, this process has been scaled back and in some cases, eliminated altogether, thanks to the Cloud Computing stack.

The easiest explanation of how these three components fit together is to imagine a pyramid divided into three sections.

SaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS) would be the top third of the pyramid.

Designed for end-users, SaaS applications can run directly from a web browser.

This means that you can run the application on multiple computers and access information from anywhere.

The major benefit is that there’s no maintenance for your business. The vendor will handle any updates, software, or storage issues.

SaaS is a good option when you are looking for a short-term solution to a problem (such as collaboration software for a project) or instances where demand spikes (such as billing or tax software).

A few examples of SaaS include Google Apps, Salesforce, and GoToMeeting.

PaaS

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the middle third of this pyramid.
PaaS gives users the framework to develop or customize applications suited for their needs.

It allows users the flexibility to either host the platform on a cloud server or from within the company infrastructure.

This allows your developers to focus on coding applications, without worrying about IT issues.

PaaS is very similar to SaaS, with the main difference being that while

SaaS uses the web to access it, software or application is the main delivery source of PaaS solutions.

PaaS is useful when you already have an existing data source, for instance, sales reports from your CRM that you want to create an application to leverage that data.

Some examples of PaaS include Windows Azure, Heroku, Force.com, and Google App Engine.

IaaS

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the bottom third of the pyramid and allows users to have full control over their infrastructure.

Third-party providers host all of the hardware, software, servers, storage, etc. on behalf of their users.

Typically, IaaS customers are charged hourly, weekly, or monthly. This eliminates the need for deploying hardware and software in-house.

The best utilization for IaaS is for new companies that don’t have the capital (or physical space, for that matter) to invest in hardware.

It’s also good for companies going through proverbial “growing pains” and find scaling hardware difficult.

A few examples of IaaS are Amazon Web Services, Cisco Metapod, and Google Compute Engine.

When it comes down to choosing between the three, the important thing to take into decide are what your SPECIFIC needs are, how those needs can be met, and what your needs may be in the future.

Do you have experience in choosing a Cloudstack? Any interesting anecdotes or experiences that could help make the decision a little easier?

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