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Uptime Blog

Understanding Cloud Services: IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS

Cloud services have skyrocketed in popularity in the past few years, providing a vast array of resources as well as a cost-effective path for the migration from on-premises servers to the cloud. In fact, cloud services are handling all the computing needs of many businesses. It’s very likely you’re already using cloud services and will continue to use more as time goes on.

Although many of these services were available some years ago, companies were unwilling to commit to moving their computing needs to the cloud. Now, with the widespread adoption of cloud services from Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and others, it’s just a part of everyday life in IT.

So, what are cloud services? In this article, we’ll look at a few of the major categories of cloud services and how they might be used. This should give you a good basis to understand the key terms and acronyms you may encounter.

Broadly speaking, cloud services are divided into three types, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS), and platform as a service (PaaS).

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Cloud services began as IaaS, replacing on-premises machines with computers that ran in the cloud. Originally, this meant physically putting your server—or a dedicated, rented server—in someone else’s data center. The benefits of IaaS include physical security, redundant internet access, redundant power, and power backup beyond the means of a small business and is difficult for medium and larger businesses to set up and manage.

In the same timeframe, the concept of “virtual machines” began to develop. With virtual machines, a server running “virtualizing software”—such as VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V—allows one physical server to host multiple virtual servers. Each virtual machine looks like a physical machine. You can log into it, install software, and manage it like a physical machine, but it’s isolated from other virtual machines. The physical server’s disk storage, CPU, and memory are allocated across the virtual machines as needed.

To make the process simpler, companies typically start their migration to the cloud by creating virtual machines on a service like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

The next service type provided by cloud vendors has been around for quite a while, software as a service (SaaS). SaaS businesses provide software that doesn’t require any on-premises components—all you need is a web browser. This software is automatically and continuously updated with features and bug fixes. It doesn’t require any custom development, like when using PaaS. While it may be extendable and have API interfaces, no written code is needed to use it.

A few simple examples of SaaS businesses are email providers such as Hotmail, AOL, and Gmail. Some more complicated examples—which come with many more features—are Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, HubSpot, and xMatters.

While almost all new software applications are SaaS products, ranging from social media sites to software development source control, business-focused enterprise applications sold on a per-user subscription basis best represent this class of cloud services.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

The third cloud service type is platform as a service (PaaS). PaaS provides a complete cloud platform consisting of all the infrastructure necessary to deploy applications in the cloud. PaaS solutions can provide either a small subset of capabilities or all of the hardware and software required to deploy an application, depending on the needs of the developer.

One example of this is scalable execution tasks. In the case of Microsoft Azure, these are called functions, and in the case of Amazon Web Services, they are called lambdas. Other PaaS examples include web applications, storage functions, authentication, API management, internet of things (IoT) endpoints, mesh computing, and AI engines.

PaaS combines to create software systems that handle data streams and implement applications (perhaps SaaS). These services provide massive, on-demand scaling, with the ability to scale up and down—or off when not in use. PaaS is available with all the major cloud vendors: Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Google, and others. You only pay for what you use, which makes testing at scale much more affordable.

Integration Platform as A Service (iPaaS)

As software is increasingly interconnected, the need to provide a simplified method for integrating different software has grown. Modern applications often take advantage of a multitude of services integrated through APIs. With an Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), developers can integrate a variety of different applications, including SaaS products and custom APIs, in a low-code or no-code approach that dramatically reduces the development time necessary to spin up custom integration solutions.

Exploring xMatters as an Example of SaaS

xMatters is a SaaS product. It is delivered online as a subscription that is accessible from anywhere. Initial setup takes minutes and many pre-defined workflows can be utilized to accelerate a custom workflow and environment for your company.

xMatters can also easily integrate with other applications, including other SaaS services. By offering no-code integration to popular SaaS and PaaS products, xMatters allows incident response teams quick access to familiar tools and platforms.

An incident can be triggered manually or via some external source. Once triggered, the incident will be processed per your workflow and routed to those most likely to help. If there is no response, an escalation can be defined.

xMatters lets you create simple, no-code automation for processes in a single web-based tool. The platform also allows for the detailed tracking and reporting of incidents and facilitates effective post-mortem investigations and remediations. All these capabilities are immediately available upon establishing an online account—no complicated downloads or installations are required.

All these different types of cloud services have their place: IaaS allows for easy migration of existing applications and servers, SaaS provides instantly-available and fully-functional complex software, and PaaS allows you to develop new applications that take full advantage of cloud resources without needing to maintain infrastructure yourself.

Learn more about xMatters capabilities and how they can help you better manage cloud resources for incident response and process automation.

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