SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS: What’s The Difference?

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SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS: What’s The Difference?

sky-592415_640We do love our abbreviations, don’t we?

The cloud computing industry’s no exception. Even as the cloud’s seen increasing use throughout the enterprise, there’s still a ton of confusion over precisely what it is and does. That’s not helped along by the fact that people bandy about terms like IaaS and SaaS with abandon.

Let’s see if we can’t clear the air a bit. Today, we’re going to discuss the difference between the three major ‘brands’ of cloud deployment, as well as what each is used for. Let’s get right into it.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

We’ll start with what I feel to be the simplest cloud model to understand. Software as a Service is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – it’s a distribution model for applications in which they’re available as a service rather than being installed on a user’s device. Generally, how it works is a SaaS vendor hosts instances of the application in their cloud, and clients access that app through the Internet.

There’s a very good chance you already use some SaaS apps in your day-to-day life. Tons of mobile apps have most of their functionality tied to the cloud, with only a thin client installed on the user’s device. Plenty of analytics and CRM apps like Salesforce use a SaaS model as well.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

Next up, we’ve got Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Generally, when you talk about the cloud, this is the first thing that comes to mind. With IaaS, a client deploys virtualized computing resources via the cloud. Most commonly, this is either storage or a virtual server. It’s sort of a natural ‘next step’ in virtualization technology, allowing for near-infinite scaling, a ton of flexibility, and the ability to deploy a ton of infrastructure at a minimal cost.

IaaS customers typically pay for their cloud infrastructure on-demand – meaning they only pay for what they use. The cloud also provides incredibly redundancy for IaaS platforms, as even if an instance ‘fails,’ another can be immediately rolled up.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

Last but certainly not least, We’ve got PaaS. Admittedly, this one’s the most confusing of the three. It’s obvious that IaaS is basically cloud hardware, while SaaS is software. So what does that leave, exactly?

More software, actually.

Let me explain. Whereas SaaS typically involves the deployment of completed applications and software, PaaS provides a development platform on which that software can be developed and deployed. It’s essentially a cloud environment that can be easily tweaked and modified as an organization’s development needs change.

If you’re scratching your head and thinking that what PaaS provides can be easily offered by IaaS, you’re right. The trade-off is that PaaS tends to be a bit cheaper, even if it lacks a bit in flexibility and power. Salesforce’s Force.COm platform is one example, as is Heroku, Amazon Web Services, and Elastic Beanstalk.

That’s pretty much it – those are the three major ‘breeds’ of cloud computing model. Use whichever one your business requires. And if you need a host that’ll provide you with a powerful cloud to use, check out Liberty Center One – we’ll do whatever we can to get your business set up with a solution that fits its needs like a glove.


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