The rapid technological advancement of the past few decades has given companies more options than ever when it comes to managing their IT needs. Yet, it can be difficult to understand not just the nuanced differences between solutions like software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and hybrid cloud, but also when and where each model is most appropriate to fit into your business technology strategy.
To help you determine which of these solutions could play a role in your future IT strategy, let’s take a closer look at each model and look at what it provides, starting with IaaS:
What is IaaS?
In an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) arrangement, the responsibility for physical infrastructure elements including networking, storage, servers, and virtualisation falls to the IaaS provider – not the business. Companies can then leverage these resources to build and operate virtual machines without the infrastructure investments they’d need to make in order to host them directly on-site.
However, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is simply one of four types of cloud computing, and there are four business models in total: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and On-premises.
The best way to understand how these three cloud computing models compare with traditional on-premises IT is to look more closely at the specific responsibilities governed by the businesses that use them, relative to the providers that offer them.
As the image above demonstrates, traditional on-premise IT requires that organisations own all of the responsibilities associated with technology management – from the investment in physical infrastructure all the way through to the provisioning and management of user applications.
On-premises IT offers organisations the greatest level of control over the way technology resources are allocated and managed, but it also comes with potentially significant upfront costs and ongoing maintenance expenses. However, there are many situations where this level of investment is appropriate, especially in cases where security or compliance standards require a high degree of control over data.
In an IaaS model, such as that offered by Rackspace or Digital Ocean, costs may be lower as companies are no longer required to maintain physical infrastructure, the real estate associated with it, or the skilled staff members needed to sustain it. At organisations where IT is a non-core activity, transitioning to an IaaS system allows businesses to better focus their resources on more strategic business initiatives.
Next up, PaaS programs such as Microsoft Azure and AWS Elastic Beanstalk shift a greater level of responsibility to the PaaS provider than an IaaS service model. A PaaS provider may take over operating systems, middleware, and run-time, in addition to the elements encompassed by IaaS. In a PaaS arrangement, only application and data management are left for end-user organisations to handle.
Finally, there’s SaaS. When most users think of cloud computing, they think of SaaS programs such as Microsoft Office 365, through which SaaS providers bear full responsibility not just for deploying software, but for managing the technology stack that allows it to be delivered as well.
SaaS programs are where end-to-end technology resources are managed by the software application provider. Organisations may be responsible for assigning licenses to new users, but after that, all other operations are handled by the SaaS company. One such example of this would be the service Jira, which is widely used in agile workplaces.
Both PaaS and SaaS models extend the benefits offered by IaaS solutions. In particular, there are potential cost-benefit gains if the workload is assessed and redeployed to a PaaS or SaaS model over an IaaS solution. And because less investment is required for resources such as on-premise hardware and internal support structures when opting for services other than IaaS, PaaS and SaaS solutions can often be implemented more quickly, potentially providing functionality that may be impractical for organisations to develop or sustain on their own.
Hybrid Cloud and How it Interacts with IaaS
As the explanations above indicate, on-premise, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are all appropriate for different companies, and – in some cases – for different workloads in the same company in different contexts. However, given the complexity of many IT operations, it’s rare for an individual organisation to have a single solution. Instead, individual aspects of the business requirements call for different solutions – and that’s where hybrid cloud can be of benefit.
According to Microsoft:
“Often called “the best of both worlds,” hybrid clouds combine on-premises infrastructure, or private clouds, with public clouds so organizations can reap the advantages of both. In a hybrid cloud, data and applications can move between private and public clouds for greater flexibility and more deployment options. For instance, you can use the public cloud for high-volume, lower-security needs such as web-based email, and the private cloud (or other on-premises infrastructure) for sensitive, business-critical operations like financial reporting.”
Imagine that you work for a bank. Given the strict IT compliance requirements you’re likely operating under, an ultra-secure IaaS solution operated as part of a hybrid cloud program could mean you don’t need to worry about managing, refreshing, or updating the hardware and security of your on-premise data centre. Further, it would make available the resources needed to support new development projects quickly as they scale up or down.
How Hybrid Cloud Addresses Your Business Challenges
A hybrid cloud solution addresses many of the business challenges faced by medium or large-size enterprise organisations, including:
- Unanticipated charges associated with public cloud usage. Although public cloud solutions tend to be more cost-effective than on-site infrastructure investment, the granular nature of their billing – which reflects specific usage across different resource types – can contribute to your cloud bill being higher than anticipated. With a hybrid cloud solution, organisations can ensure their workload is held in the right place, based on their needs. This may mean that not all data sets need to be in the cloud, ensuring greater control over cost management.
- Compliance-sensitive workloads and governance requirements. As noted above, full public cloud computing may not be appropriate in situations where the appropriate controls are not in place. Hybrid cloud solutions allow organisations to balance usage across multiple systems in order to maintain data sovereignty where it’s required, while still leveraging the flexibility and scalability of the public cloud in other circumstances.
- The potential for corporate reputation damage in the event of a data breach. Cloud computing introduces a potentially unacceptable level of data breach risk due to human error (although this is still considered a risk with On-premises solutions too). Not only can hybrid cloud solutions provide an important layer of data backups in the event of a breach or other disaster, they can limit human interaction with critical data by maintaining it outside of the cloud. In this way, they may also play a role in allowing businesses to maintain continuity as part of a disaster recovery process.
- The need to mitigate pressing security risks. Failing to deploy security patches, bug fixes, or other enhancements can contribute to security risks, as can non-optimised operating environments. Within a hybrid cloud solution, patching can be carried out as part of a manual, partially automated, or fully automated process in order to limit the potential impact of these issues.
- The need to support the excess resource demands driven by innovation. Building and sustaining a competitive advantage – whether through digital transformation or any other initiative – often requires rapid application development or the fast adoption of new technologies. Meeting the technical demands of this development work in terms of data volume, variety, veracity, and velocity may not be feasible with a full on-site infrastructure or private cloud arrangement.
Is Hybrid Cloud and IaaS Right for My Business?
On-premise IT, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and hybrid cloud may each be appropriate solutions for the needs of different organisations – either on their own or in combination with multiple service delivery models.
For instance, companies with minimal IT needs or for whom tech innovation isn’t a core revenue generator may be less likely than larger, more complex organisations to benefit from a hybrid cloud model. Similarly, businesses whose existing systems are performing optimally may not experience sufficient benefit to justify the investment required to transition to a new solution (or combination of solutions).
In addition, the cloud allows businesses to scale quickly and cost effectively, while On-premises solutions may prove restrictive for small companies with limited resources or budgets for longer term backup and storage solutions.
These are just a few of the many benefits offered by cloud computing solutions, while there are many more that can be applied directly to your organisation’s requirements.
If the challenges described above resonate with your experiences at your organisation, it may be time to consider a hybrid cloud solution. Download Harbour’s Cloud Power Guide to learn more, or schedule a chat to receive a complimentary Strategic IT review.