Cloud computing is often regarded as a horrible buzzword that is thrown around at every opportunity.  This may be true but it may also be better and easier than some of the alternatives. In this article we look at the differences between the three main types of cloud computing and why there is so much confusion.

SaaS – Software as a Service

Chances are you have been using SaaS for ages and not even known about it. Webmail anyone? SaaS allows you to use a program or software as a free (Gmail) or paid for (Salesforce.com) subscription service. Customers rely on the vendor to maintain and update the product for them saving the time and energy required to setup and run these services themselves in house. Google is really running with this concept from calendaring, word processing and even mapping being possible from any web browser. Having software run externally also allows for very easy roaming as any user can access their data from anywhere in the world.

PaaS – Platform as a Service

The PaaS layer offers savings for both the customer and the developer but at the cost of functionality and control. Examples of PaaS are Google’s App Engine and the Force.com platform.  The PaaS supplier provides a standard programming environment, usually with API’s that allow for easily utilising certain off the shelf tools such as redundant storage and databases.  Developers can quickly create tools and products that can be sold with all the advantages of SaaS services without having to get their hands dirty building fully secure and redundant systems from scratch.

IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service

Purists say that IaaS is the only one that deserves to be called Cloud Computing. For years companies have purchased or rented servers in data centres to run their applications. While it was great to have your own box it was up to you to make it robust and redundant enough to cope with everything the Internet throws at you. IaaS providers such as Rackspace and ElasticHosts virtualise their data centres and sell virtual servers with the same power as the physical server you had but with the added benefit of redundancy and a large cost saving. Because virtual machines can be turned on and off at will and with most providers billing by the hour or minute it is very easy to cope with peaks in demand. Instead of using one server to process some data over 20 hours you can use 20 servers and have your answer in one hour.

There are always exceptions

Of course no labelling would be complete without some blurring of the lines. Amazon have successfully managed to confuse things with their very popular AWS products. While their S3 service is a PaaS product, their EC2 service is sold and commonly referred to as a IaaS product.  However there are a number of proprietary tools and calls that you must use which many argue makes it a PaaS product too.

Whatever your views (and there are many), Dogsbody Technology can help you understand what is right for you and your business.  If you have any questions regarding this post or suggestions for articles on more subjects then please do comment below or drop us a line.