Information Center

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

The increased adoption of cloud computing environments has seen more and more businesses, big and small, move away from traditional on-premises IT solutions to software, platforms, and computing infrastructure offered as a service. So what does it mean? And what are the differences between the service models?

As-a-service means cloud computing services from third-party vendors that allow organizations to focus on what’s important to them, such as the core business functions or customer relationships. Each of the three cloud computing models leaves organizations with less on-premises IT infrastructure to manage.

On-premises IT infrastructure offers organizations the highest responsibility as users and managers. Therefore, it’s up to the organization to manage, replace, and update each component as needed. However, cloud computing allows allocating some or all of the infrastructure to a third-party service provider.

The three types of cloud computing options are:

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a service (PaaS)
  • Software as a service (SaaS)

Learn about IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS models and how they create cloud computing environments tailored to an organization’s needs. This post will also look at examples of as-a-service options, how to integrate them into current IT landscapes, their benefits and disadvantages, and how to select the best one for your organization.

What is IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS?

IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are popular types of cloud service models. They are sometimes called cloud service offerings, cloud computing service models, or cloud infrastructure models.

  • IaaS offers on-demand access to cloud-hosted virtual and physical servers, storage, and networking. It’s the backend IT infrastructure organizations use to run apps and workloads in the cloud.
  • PaaS offers on-demand access to ready-to-use and complete cloud-hosted platforms for managing, running, developing, and maintaining applications.
  • SaaS offers on-demand access to ready-to-use and cloud-hosted application software.

IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS in cloud computing are not mutually exclusive. Many mid-sized to large enterprises use more than one or all three.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS is on-demand access to cloud-hosted IT infrastructure, including servers, networking resources, storage capacity, and visualization. Customers can provision, configure, and use the IT infrastructure similarly to on-premises hardware.

It’s a pay-as-you-go service from a third party that provides customers with infrastructure services such as storage and virtualization, as they need them, via the cloud and through the internet. As the user, an organization is responsible for the data, applications, operating system, runtimes, and middleware, while the provider gives access to its servers, virtualization, storage, and network.

Therefore, since the provider does that already, organizations don’t have to update or maintain their on-premises datacenters. Instead, they access and control the infrastructure through a dashboard or application programming interface (API).

IaaS allows organizations to purchase and use only the necessary components and scale them up and down as needed. It results in no maintenance costs and low overhead making it an affordable option.

IaaS is the original as-a-service offering, and every major cloud service provider started by offering some form of IaaS. These include Amazon Web Service, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

IaaS Use Cases

IaaS has numerous use cases, including the following:

  • Disaster recovery: Rather than organizations setting up redundant servers in multiple locations, they can deploy their disaster recovery solutions to their cloud provider’s infrastructure in various locations.
  • Software development: It allows organizations to set up their software development and testing infrastructure quicker than on-premises.
  • Ecommerce: IaaS is suitable for online retailers with frequent traffic spikes. It allows them to scale up during high-demand periods while ensuring high-quality security in the 24/7 retail industry.
  • Start-ups: Start-ups can take advantage of IaaS and all its advantages instead of sinking capital into on-premises IT infrastructure. They get access to enterprise-class data centers and all their advantages without significant up-front investment in hardware or management overhead.

Benefits of IaaS

IaaS gives organizations more flexibility for computing resources as needed. They can scale up or down depending on spikes or slow-downs in their traffic. It also lets them avoid extensive upfront setup and overhead expenses of purchasing and maintaining their own on-premises data centers.

IaaS also eliminates the constant trade-off organizations experience between purchasing excess on-premises capacity during spikes in their computing traffic and the poor performance of outages resulting from insufficient computing capacity for unexpected or unprecedented traffic bursts and growth.

Other benefits include:

  • Higher availability: IaaS allows organizations to create redundant servers in other locations to ensure availability and reduce downtime during physical disasters and local power outages.
  • Lower latency and improved performance: IaaS providers often operate data centers in different locations, so organizations can locate services and applications closer to users to maximize performance and minimize latency.
  • Comprehensive security: Organizations can take advantage of advanced security and protection from IaaS providers via encryption, ensuring high-level on-site security at data centers.
  • Improved responsiveness: Organizations can provision cloud computing resources quickly, test new ideas, and roll them out to more users.
  • Fast access to the latest technologies: Cloud providers compete to provide the latest technologies to their users to attract more business, allowing organizations to take advantage of the technologies earlier than they would have from on-premises implementation.

IaaS Limitations

  • Despite the numerous advantages of IaaS, organizations face challenges when transitioning to the cloud. These include:
  • Legacy systems: Organizations must review and upgrade their legacy systems and applications before a complete cloud migration. Many older computing systems don’t support cloud-based services.
  • Internal training: New systems come with unique intricacies, and organizations may need training and additional resources to ensure users know what to do.
  • Security: Moving from an on-premises system to the cloud comes with new security threats, so organizations must review and update their security systems and remediation strategies.

Platform as a service (PaaS)

PaaS provides users with cloud-based platforms for developing, running, and managing applications. The cloud provider hosts the software and hardware on its infrastructure and delivers users integrated platform solutions as a stack or service via an internet connection. They also provide support services for security, system and software upgrades, and backups.

PaaS is primarily useful for programmers and developers and allows users to develop, run, and manage applications without maintaining the underlying infrastructure.

Users can code, build, ad manage applications without having to deploy software updates or manage hardware maintenance. Instead, the PaaS provider creates and deploys the computing environment. PaaS solutions include Microsoft Windows Azure, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, and Google App Engine.

PaaS Use Cases

PaaS advances several IT initiatives, including:

  • Agile development and DevOps: PaaS solutions often cover all DevOps toolchain requirements and provide built-in automation supporting continuous integration and continuous delivery or CI/CD.
  • API development and management: PaaS has the built-in frameworks teams need to develop, manage, run, and secure APIs for data sharing and functionality between apps.
  • Internet of Things: PaaS supports different programming languages, tools, and applications developers use for IoT applications and real-time data processing.
  • Cloud-native development and hybrid cloud: PaaS supports cloud-native development technologies such as containers, Kubernetes, microservices, and server-less computing, enabling developers to build once and deploy and manage consistently across public and private cloud and on-premises environments.

Benefits of PaaS

PaaS allows customers to build, test, run, deploy, update, and scale applications better, quicker, and cost-effectively than possible from their on-premises platform.

Other benefits of PaaS include:

  • Simplified collaboration: PaaS enables a shared software development environment because it’s a cloud-based service, giving operations and development teams access to the tools they require from anywhere.
  • Low-risk testing and adoption of new technologies: PaaS platforms include access to the latest resources, allowing organizations to test new operating systems, tools, and languages before making substantial investments in the infrastructure needed.
  • Scaling capability: As a platform service, PaaS enables organizations to purchase additional capacity for building, testing, running, and staging applications when they need it.
  • Less to manage: PaaS offloads administrative tasks, infrastructure management, and updates to the cloud service provider.
  • Faster time to market: It enables development teams to develop, test, and manage applications quickly.

PaaS Limitations

PaaS has several drawbacks, including the following:

  • Integrations: Developers may encounter challenges using PaaS when integrating new applications, especially when using legacy systems that don’t support cloud adoption.
  • Runtime: PaaS may not have fully-optimized solutions for the frameworks and language developers use, making it difficult to find a tailored solution.
  • Data security: Using third-party servers could lead to additional security risks. In addition, developers may have limited security options because they need to find a compatible solution that can integrate with third-party systems.
  • Operational limitations: PaaS solutions may not fully integrate with customized cloud operations, especially management automation workflows. It can inhibit operational capabilities and limit the user’s scope.

Software as a service (SaaS)

SaaS or cloud application services is the most comprehensive cloud computing service form, delivering applications managed entirely by a provider via a web browser. The provider handles everything from software updates and bug fixes to general software maintenance.

Users connect to the app via an API or dashboard, so there is no software installation required on individual machines, making group access smoother and more reliable. For example, users can log into their Gmail or Outlook email accounts from any computer and web browser.

SaaS is an excellent option for businesses lacking the resources (such as bandwidth or IT staff) to handle software installation and updates. It’s also great for applications that enterprises use periodically and don’t require much customization. Examples of SaaS products include Dropbox, Google Apps, and Salesforce.

SaaS Use Cases

SaaS products are ideal when organizations want to run applications smoothly with minimal input. Additionally, just about any employee productivity and personal applications are available as SaaS. Use examples include:

  • CRM: The market is full of customer relationship management (CRM) software products to help manage customer data, most of which use APIs, making them easy to use.
  • Security: These include data encryption software for organizations to store passwords.
  • BPM: Business process management (BPM) software is a solid asset for managing business processes.

Benefits of SaaS

SaaS offloads all infrastructure and application management to vendors, so the user only creates an account, pays the subscription fee, and starts using the service. The SaaS provider handles everything else, including maintaining the server software and hardware, managing user access and security, implementing patches and upgrades, and storing, managing and backing up data.

Other benefits of SaaS are:

  • Easy scalability: Organizations can easily add users by registering and paying. They can also purchase more storage for a nominal charge.
  • Minimal risk: Most SaaS products offer a free trial period where customers can try the software before purchasing it.
  • Anytime/anywhere productivity: Offers users access to SaaS applications on any device with an internet connection and web browser.
  • Integration: SaaS solutions easily integrate with other offerings without purchasing another software or server.
  • Ease of use: SaaS is easy to use because it does not require downloading or installation.

SaaS Limitations

SaaS also has some limitations, as discussed below:

  • Data security: SaaS data protection and security may become an issue because of off-premise data storage. Therefore, organizations must ensure they have the right security solutions irrespective of the SaaS service they use.
  • Customization: SaaS services allow minimal customization for integrations, capabilities, and features, forcing organizations to invest significant resources into adding or managing customizable capabilities.
  • Interoperability: Many SaaS applications don’t support open integrations. Therefore, finding services with integration capabilities is a challenge.
  • Lack of control: Businesses often hand over ultimate control to third-party SaaS providers. Therefore, it’s critical to find a reliable provider.

What is the Difference Between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS?

As stated above, as-a-service refers to how organizations and individuals consume IT assets and is the difference between traditional on-premises IT and cloud computing. In traditional on-premises IT, organizations consume IT assets (hardware, system software, applications, and development tools) by purchasing, installing, managing, and maintaining them on on-premises data centers.

In cloud computing, cloud service providers own, manage, and maintain the IT assets while the customer consumes them through an internet connection on a web browser, platform, or dashboard. They also pay for the IT assets on a pay-as-you-go or subscription basis.

As organizations map their path to the cloud, the essential decisions revolve around how much they can and want to manage IT assets on-premises and how much they want a service provider to manage.

Below is the on-premises vs. IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS comparison.

  • On-premises: The organization manages everything – applications, data, middleware, runtime, operating systems, servers, storage, visualizations, and networking.
  • IaaS: The organization manages applications, data, middleware, runtime, and operating system, while the service provider manages the virtualization, servers, storage, and networking.
  • PaaS: The organization only manages applications and data while the service provider handles everything else, including the operating system, runtime, middleware, servers, virtualization, storage, and networking.
  • SaaS: Here, the service provider manages everything, including applications, data, middleware, runtime, operating systems, servers, storage, visualizations, and networking.

That’s the difference between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. The economic aspect is the primary advantage of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS in cloud computing. A customer can access IT assets and scale its capabilities at a predictable cost without the initial expense of purchasing the infrastructure and the overhead of maintaining it in a data center.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

1.     IaaS vs. PaaS

IaaS offers greater control over an organization’s operating systems and is the foundation of the cloud-computing environment. However, PaaS allows organizations to build applications without hosting them on-premises, offering more flexibility with less control.

For example, Amazon Web Services provides the infrastructure for hosting websites and applications. In contrast, Google App Engine can host the site and gives developers the capacity to design and deploy applications.

2.     SaaS vs. PaaS

PaaS supports the building of new products over already existing networks. Still, SaaS goes further by having the vendor manage the SaaS products to provide ready-to-use products.

For example, PaaS provides the tools to build a payroll app customized to an organization’s needs, and it would be considered SaaS upon finishing. However, a ready-made SaaS product like QuickBooks could be a better option.

3.     IaaS vs. SaaS

SaaS products give organizations the most software management and maintenance services from vendors. However, IaaS providers only supply and maintain core components like storage and servers.

What are Examples of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS?

Below are some IaaS PaaS SaaS examples:

1.    IaaS Examples

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS): It’s an on-demand loud computing product purchased on a recurring subscription basis and overseen by Amazon. It helps companies store and deliver data.
  • Microsoft Azure: It’s a cloud-computing product for building, testing, and managing apps via a network of Microsoft data centers.
  • Google Cloud: It’s a cloud-computing product businesses use to run Windows, SAP, and Oracle natively.

2.    PaaS Example

  • Google App Engine: Developers use it to build web apps and host them in Google’s cloud-based data centers.

3.    SaaS Examples

  • HubSpot: It’s a CRM, sales, marketing, and service SaaS platform that organizations use to connect with customers and retain them.
  • Dropbox: It’s a file-sharing SaaS tool allowing multiple users within an organization or group to download and upload files.
  • DocuSign: It allows businesses to send contracts and documents requiring signatures.
  • JIRA: It’s a project management software from Atlassian.

Which Cloud Computing Type is the Best?

Each cloud solution has distinct features adapted to various projects and needs, bringing a different layer to the information system. Therefore, choosing among the different types of cloud computing solutions depends on the project scale and requirements.

  • SaaS offers simplicity on demand, saves time, and it’s simple and predictable
  • PaaS is the ultimate solution for web applications, offering optimization, centralization, and cost reduction.
  • IaaS offers scalability for complex projects. It’s also accessible and customizable.

How Veritas Can Help You

Veritas helps organizations of different sizes manage and protect their business-critical data. It offers an integrated product portfolio providing unified data management to deliver unmatched performance and versatility with top-tier supervision in the cloud.

Veritas cloud products are built to solve industry challenges such as optimizing multi-cloud apps and data for always-on availability, ensuring rapid disaster recovery, accelerating the adoption of enterprise cloud services, and protecting the cloud based-assets.

Besides cloud services, Veritas supports various other cybersecurity and compliance areas. We also have competitive market rates and a robust and comprehensive technology ecosystem, with over 800 data sources, 1,400 storage targets, 100 operating systems, and 60 clouds. We also support 87% of the Fortune Global 500. That’s how Veritas can help you.

The Bottom Line

IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are the top cloud computing categories. Therefore, IaaS PaaS SaaS in cloud computing refers to using a network of different servers to host, store, process, manage and backup data online.

The three cloud models discussed above (IaaS PaaS SaaS) offer specific features and functionalities, so organizations must understand the differences and use cases. There is a cloud service offering for all organizations depending on their use cases. Whether they need cloud-based software for storage options, complete control for the entire infrastructure without physically maintaining it, or smooth-running platforms for creating customized applications.

No matter the option an organization selects, the future of business and technology is migrating to the cloud.


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Learn how Veritas keeps your data fully protected across virtual, physical, cloud and legacy workloads with Data Protection Services for Enterprise Businesses.