What is Infrastructure as a Service?

Infrastructure as a Service, or simply IaaS, is a form of cloud computing that provides organizations and consumers an automated, standardized way of acquiring fundamental computing resources on-demand, over the internet, and under a pay-as-you-go pricing model.

In this article, we take a close look at how IaaS works, how enterprises benefit from it, and what the common IaaS use cases are. We also go into how IaaS differs from two other in-demand types of cloud service delivery models—Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Lastly, we discuss how you can leverage computing resources from different IaaS providers using Parallels RAS, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution that supports multi-cloud infrastructures.

How Does Infrastructure as a Service Work?

In IaaS, the cloud service provider hosts the pool of physical infrastructure equipment found traditionally in on-premises datacenter facilities. These provider-managed datacenters generate the resources needed for business operations including servers, storage, hardware, and networking capabilities, and offer these as virtualized resources through a web-based cloud environment. The infrastructure also includes the virtualization or hypervisor layer that makes it possible for end users to avail themselves of virtual resources from the physical hardware.

From their end, customers can utilize dashboards or application programming interfaces (APIs) to purchase servers and storage and use these to install operating systems, add workloads, deploy storage, and perform other resource-intensive operations without having to invest in costly physical hardware. With IaaS, businesses have complete control over their virtual resources, allowing them to scale up or down at a moment’s notice, paying only for the resources they use for a certain period.

What Are Some of the Most Common IaaS Business Scenarios?

Infrastructure as a Service offers varied use cases for organizations of any size. Utilized in the right way, IaaS can boost computing capabilities significantly, helping your company achieve business objectives faster. Here are some of the leading business use scenarios of IaaS.

Migrating Workloads to the Cloud

Also known as lift-and-shift migration, cloud migration using IaaS is the fastest and most cost-effective way of moving an existing application or workload from an on-premises deployment to a provider-hosted cloud. Without making any significant changes to the underlying architecture, enterprises can simply migrate workloads to the cloud on an “as-is” basis, and in the process, increase scale, improve security, and reduce costs.

Big Data Analytics

Big data requires gathering, storing, managing, and analyzing both structured and unstructured data from various sources—databases, social media, emails, sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), etc. All these make for one extremely complex process that calls for powerful processing capabilities. IaaS environments not only have the capacity to handle these massive Big Data workloads, but they can also integrate seamlessly with business intelligence tools to generate insights that can be used as a basis for informed decision making.

Testing and Development

Software development projects often require test and development environments that need to be set up quickly and then dismantled right after. With IaaS, IT teams can generate the networking and computing power needed for these test/develop environments within minutes, allowing them to run test applications rapidly and reduce the time to market for new products.

Backup and Disaster Recovery

An IaaS environment can make an ideal platform for backup and disaster recovery. Not only is it easily scalable to match the increasing storage and backup needs of growing enterprises, but it also simplifies planning and reduces complexity since most IaaS storage offerings provide integrated backup and recovery in a single, software-based solution. This eliminates unnecessary consumption of resources and reduces administrative costs associated with hiring in-house staff for managing backups.

Website and Application Hosting

Using IaaS to host websites and run web-based and mobile applications on IaaS has proven to be affordable and efficient for many organizations. The infrastructure offers ample storage and networking capabilities to run most types of applications and websites and allows businesses to deploy applications quickly and scale up resources when the demand calls for it.

What Are the Differences between IaaS and SaaS vs PaaS?

IaaS isn’t the only major cloud service offered by cloud service providers (CSPs). They also offer Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Here’s a chart that illustrates the differences between these three in terms of the level of control you and your CSP have on the cloud infrastructure. The blue-shaded cells indicate those cloud infrastructure components that the CSP has control over.

As you can see, in terms of control, the difference between IaaS and PaaS is that you have control over more components in an IaaS cloud compared to PaaS. With SaaS, on the other hand, you have the least amount of control. It goes without saying that an IaaS cloud requires a higher level of expertise on your part than a SaaS cloud does.

IaaS examples include Amazon Web Service (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Azure Virtual Machines, and Google Compute Engine. On the other hand, examples of SaaS services include Google Drive, Word Online, and Canva. As you can see, most regular end users can use SaaS services with ease, but you would need to have some IT background to use IaaS services.

IaaS PaaS SaaS
Data Data Data
Service settings Service Settings Service Settings
Application Application Application
Operating System Operating System Operating System
Virtualization Solution Virtualization Solution Virtualization Solution
Physical Servers Physical Servers Physical Servers
Network Network Network
Facilities Facilities Facilities

What Are the Benefits of IaaS?

Using an IaaS cloud instead of a traditional IT infrastructure has several benefits. Here are some of them.

Reduce or Even Eliminate CAPEX Costs

Running servers and applications on a public IaaS cloud means eliminating the need to purchase, configure, and deploy physical servers and network equipment. This can result in huge savings from a capital expenditures (CAPEX) standpoint. The savings gained can then be reallocated to other projects across the organization.

Enable Rapid Deployment

Since there’s no need to configure and deploy physical servers and network equipment, setting up (virtual) servers and applications is much faster. Moreover, virtual machines can be cloned. That means you can create multiple copies from a golden image quickly with very little effort. Putting all this together can reduce deployment times from months or weeks to days or hours (and even minutes).

Improve Scalability

In an IaaS-based IT infrastructure, virtual machines can be spun up or down according to demand. This can come in handy in seasonal markets or in other use cases that require IT infrastructure that can scale up or down easily as the need arises. If demand spikes, you can spin up more virtual machines, and if the demand subsides, you can simply terminate them. Imagine doing this without acquiring additional hardware, a luxury you’ll never experience in traditional IT infrastructure.

Acquire Financial Flexibility

When you shift from a traditional IT infrastructure to one that’s running on an IaaS cloud, you’ll also be shifting from a CAPEX-based payment model to an Operating Expenditures (OPEX)–based one. This gives you more financial flexibility and a healthier cash flow. If for whatever reason, you can no longer afford your current infrastructure, you can contract it to a size that’s within your budget. You can’t do that with a traditional IT infrastructure, where you probably already paid for the infrastructure up front.

Enhance the Capabilities of VDI Environments

IaaS cloud environments can also be used to host virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments. That is, you may deploy your VDI solution on virtual servers that are running in an IaaS cloud. VDI enables businesses to host virtualized applications and desktops in a centralized location (like a public IaaS cloud) and then make them accessible to endpoint devices such as PCs, laptops, tablets, thin clients, and smartphones, from any location.

Because applications are not installed on the endpoint devices themselves but rather hosted in a central location, VDI simplifies endpoint administration and security greatly. These capabilities are very useful in remote work environments, where IT has very little control over what goes on in user endpoint devices.

VDI’s capabilities for enabling remote work can be further enhanced when deployed on an IaaS public cloud because it can then take advantage of the low CAPEX, high scalability, flexible pricing, and global reach of the public cloud. One particular VDI solution that takes this symbiotic relationship between VDI and IaaS clouds a step further is Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS).

Multiple IaaS Service Provider Support with Parallels RAS

Parallels RAS supports all major IaaS providers, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. This extreme deployment flexibility offers several business benefits.

First, it allows you to choose freely whichever IaaS provider best suits your needs and preferences. If you’ve been a long-time AWS consumer with the majority or all of your cloud deployments running on their infrastructure, you can deploy your Parallels RAS environment there too. This would simplify integration with your other cloud deployments. Same story if the bulk of your deployments are on Azure or Google Cloud.

Second, it opens the possibility of adopting a multi-cloud architecture (or further enhancing your multi-cloud strategy if you already have one). A multi-cloud strategy enables you to leverage the individual strengths of each cloud provider while reducing the risk of vendor lock-in.

Third, deploying Parallels RAS on multiple IaaS clouds gives you a much greater global reach because a particular IaaS provider may serve certain regions that other IaaS providers don’t.

Last but not least, a multi-IaaS, cloud-deployed Parallels RAS can reduce the risk of downtime significantly. If one provider gets hit by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in one region, your business operations in that area can still continue if you have another deployment with another IaaS provider in the same region.

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