What is Infrastructure as a Service?

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Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides highly scalable and automated computing resources.  A cloud-based infrastructure provider can take care of all your computing needs while tightly controlling your costs.  It allows businesses to purchase resources as needed instead of having to buy the hardware outright. It includes things such as servers, networks, operating systems, and storage using virtualization technology.

Using a dashboard (or API), businesses have complete control over the entire infrastructure without having to physically manage or maintain a traditional in-house data center. It’s all outsourced to a virtual data center in the cloud.

Think of it as an “instant computing infrastructure.”  It’s provisioned and managed over the internet meaning you don’t have to manage the hardware or software in-house.

IaaS is getting increased attention in the public cloud services market.  Research and advisory firm Gartner calls IaaS the fastest-growing segment of the market.  IaaS accounts for nearly 28% of all cloud computing services and is expected to grow into a $39.5 billion market this year.

Four Types of Cloud Services

Cloud services come in four basic types.  They’re all related, but each service has slightly different ways of approaching business.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers manage the infrastructure and eliminate the cost of purchasing and managing your own physical servers and Data Center.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is used to connect and run apps on the cloud wherever your team work. The infrastructure, software, and data are stored in the Data Center in the cloud.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers development and deployment in the cloud.  Resources let you build and deliver cloud-based apps and cloud-enabled enterprise applications.

Serverless means not having to manage servers to run code.  There are, in fact, servers in the process but they are in the cloud.  Code is executed in the cloud using only the exact amount of computing resources necessary for the task.

In all of the cloud services, they operate on a pay-as-you-go basis which helps prevent overbuilding and paying for capacity you don’t need or falling short of needs.  In other words, you don’t pay for it until you need it but you can quickly scale up or down as business demands.

Gartner predicts that by 2022, 90% of organizations using public cloud IaaS will use some integration of IaaS and Platform as a Service (PaaS).  Sig Nag, Research Director at Gartner points to strategic initiatives and digital transformation as driving the adoption of multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies which are fueling the growth in the IaaS market.

Already, 77% of organizations have at least one application or a portion of their enterprise computing infrastructure in the cloud.  That number is expected to rise.  IDG predicts that 95% of all organizations will rely on the Software as a Service (SaaS) model for application delivery by the end of 2020.  IaaS will be part of the solution for 83% of organizations.

How Businesses Use Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS services can be used in many ways.  Here are some of the more common ways businesses are deploying IaaS services to replace legacy systems and scale infrastructure, especially in cases where demand is less predictable:

  • Hosting websites (rather than traditional web hosting)

  • Supporting web apps, including storage, app servers, and networking resources

  • Big data analysis and data mining to isolate patterns, trends, and associations that take significant amounts of computing power than you may not need every day

  • High-performance computing (HPC) tasks, such as modeling, simulations, and product design evaluation that can be scaled up only when needed

  • Testing and development using virtual environments, DevOps, DevSecOps, and other agile production cycles that needed intermittent scale-up.

  • Data Center management, storage, backup, and recovery in an increasingly compliance-regulated environment.

What Are The Advantages Of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

There are some significant advantages of using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS):

  • Eliminates capital expenses and upfront for setting up and maintaining legacy systems and Data Centers

  • Reduces ongoing maintenance costs

  • Takes the burden off of overworked IT staff

  • Outsources infrastructure, which helps mitigate the growing IT skills gap

  • Can be used for rapid innovation by making expandable resources available at a moment’s notice

  • Provides the ability to respond more quickly to handle spikes in demand and, conversely, to scale down when activity slows

  • Provides a new level of business continuity and disaster recovery in case of equipment failure or catastrophic event

  • Increases reliability and stability and less downtime

  • Outsources the maintenance, updates, and management of infrastructure to reduce costs and ease the workload on existing staff

One of the biggest benefits of IaaS and other cloud computing services is dynamic scaling.  If you – or your customers need more resources than expected or normal, you can get virtually unlimited resources (depending on your service agreement) to handle the increase.  When the demand ebbs, the resources can be easily reduced saving you money.

IaaS providers are in the business of providing an optimal business environment.  This means hardware, operating systems, apps, and automation can support a huge workload.  With a staff of highly trained professionals, they can typically handle any issues that arise in an expedient manner.  You can also set up agreements that mandate compliance with industry regulations, such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, PCI-DSS, and others.

Two sometimes overlooked aspects of IaaS involve security and business focus.  With the right IaaS provider and security agreement, your cloud provider can provide security that will likely be at a much higher level than you provide internally.  While data protection is part of your business, for an IaaS provider, it’s their bread and butter. It may be your data, but it’s their reputation at stake. This shifts much of the burden to your cloud provider and literally makes your data safer.  On-premise Data Centers have a 51 percent higher rate of security incidents than those living in the cloud.

IaaS also allows you to focus your efforts on your core business.  Rather than worrying about IT infrastructure and security, your team can focus their work on your organization’s core mission.

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