What Is The Difference Between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS?  

The affordability and security of cloud computing have businesses moving away from traditional on-premises data centers and software and embracing cloud migration. Especially in today’s highly mobile, distributed and remote workforce, cloud solutions make it easier for businesses to work and collaborate.

There are three main delivery models for cloud computing:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)

In this article, we’ll explain each model and discuss the differences between each service model.

What Is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

IaaS lets organizations manage their business resources in the cloud. This includes networks, servers, data storage and infrastructure management. Rather than build out resources on-site, companies can virtualize operations or use colocation centers.

Some of the larger IaaS providers include:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Oracle Cloud Platform (OCP)
  • IBM Cloud
  • Alibaba Elastic Compute Services

Infrastructure as a Service allows companies to control their infrastructure without having to physically manage it. Data is stored on IaaS providers and controlled through remote dashboards, such as an application programming interface (API).

Organizations only pay for the compute resources they use and it’s easy to scale up or down. There’s also no hardware to buy or maintain. Cloud service providers (CSPs) handle maintenance and updates.

What Is Platform as a Service (PaaS)?

PaaS focuses on the hardware or software tools that are available for use in the cloud. While similar to IaaS, PaaS is typically used by developers to build custom applications without having to manage storage or data serving.

Some PaaS providers are:

  • RedHat OpenShift
  • Google App Engine
  • Heroku
  • Apprenda
  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk
  • Engine Yard
  • SAP Cloud

You’ll also find PaaS options from most major IaaS and cloud service providers.

Platform as a Service allows you to customize and update apps without having to worry about managing the software or hardware behind them. However, you do not have control of the infrastructure that supports PaaS.

Some providers charge a flat monthly fee for PaaS, while others bill on a per-use basis. PaaS is generally accessed through a graphical user interface (GUI).

What Is Software as a Service (SaaS)?

SaaS platforms allow access to third-party software delivered over the cloud using a subscription model. Rather than buying software, companies pay monthly or annual subscription fees for use.

Some of the larger SaaS companies include:

  • Salesforce
  • Microsoft 365 (Formerly Office 365)
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Google Workspace
  • DocuSign
  • HubSpot CRM

Software as a Service applications are accessible through web browsers. While users control the data in the software, SaaS providers handle the underlying IT resources and computing workload.

What’s the Difference Between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS?

There are some similarities and commonalities between each of the three types of delivery models. They all use the cloud for delivery.

SaaS provides users with access to applications. They’re products that are ready to use and are hosted on the cloud provider’s network. Users log in to the software online and get to work.

PaaS provides access to tools that allow organizations to run complex tasks, such as software development or testing environments. It’s more of an application stack or middleware than a finished product.

IaaS allows access to networking infrastructure, storage and compute resources along with the virtualization layer (hypervisor). Users create virtual machines (VMs) and containers and manage the operating system, applications and data.

Which Is Right for You?

If you want to use third-party software or out-of-the-box deployment, SaaS is likely your best option. For designing and building software or apps, PaaS is probably the best choice. If you want a flexible and scalable infrastructure without the hassle of managing the hardware, IaaS is the way to go.

Ultimately, which services you decide to use will depend on your business needs and use cases. Many businesses use a combination of two or all three as part of their tech stack.

Guest post from Hotwire Networks, a web hosting & development company founded in 1999.

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