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What does Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) mean?

The cloud service architecture can be divided into 3 main levels of provisioning, each of which comprises different services. These delivery levels are: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).

In this article, we’ll start with the infrastructure delivery layer, which is the building block for all other delivery layers. However, this level does not necessarily have to be obtained from an external partner as part of a service in order to use the subsequent levels.

With IaaS, companies rent the hardware resources, such as servers, computing power, storage space, network devices and functionalities necessary for day-to-day operations from an external provider. The various resources can be removed and added in any quantity.

Well-known IaaS providers are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google.

How does IaaS work and who is responsible?

IaaS works according to the Shared-Responsibility-Principle. Here, both the provider and the customer take on different areas of responsibility in order to ensure the optimal use or provision of cloud resources. The responsibility can be distributed as pursued:

Responsibility of the provider

The provider assumes responsibility for the physical environment. The physical environment includes the construction, operation and security of the hardware. He is responsible for ensuring that the hardware is fully available to the customer at all times.

Some important tasks of IaaS providers are

Construction, maintenance and regular modernization of the data center infrastructure

Protection of the data center against external influences

Provision of computing power (CPU, main memory) and storage space

Provision of server and network structures and databases

Providing a virtualization environment that allows customers to access the resources offered

Provision of software that enables the customer to administer the resources provided

Corporate responsibility

With the resources made available, companies have the possibility to put together and manage their own data centre adapted to their needs. In addition to organizing and using this logical environment companies must take security measures to protect the provided resources.

The following tasks are the responsibility of the company:

  • Installation, configuration and regular updates of operating systems and all application software
  • Administration of the network and configuration of the firewall
  • Protection through security software
  • Encryption of data and connections
  • Setting up identity and access controls and authentication mechanisms

Why more and more companies are opting for IaaS

IaaS platforms provide access to highly scalable IT resources that can be adapted to meet increasing requirements. This makes the model ideal for companies that are temporarily struggling with high workloads, such as retailers during the Christmas season.

However, IaaS is also suitable for small and medium-sized enterprises where demand growth is expected. Companies today need to be more flexible to compete with new digital competitors. In addition to increased flexibility and scalability, cost savings are one of the key business drivers of IaaS in this context.

By outsourcing their IT infrastructure to the cloud, companies can reduce their capital and operating costs. They only pay for the computing power they actually use. This naturally also reduces IT maintenance costs. Cloud monitoring tools and a cost model tailored to cloud usage can help avoid high IaaS costs. However, companies should ensure that their applications and other systems use cloud resources efficiently. In the IaaS world, they pay as much for wasteful use as they do for effective use.

Another advantage of IaaS is the flexibility of location. Companies can access IaaS offerings from virtually anywhere with Internet access. This availability also speaks for IaaS: cloud providers have multiple locations for their facilities to keep latency low for customers.

Typical applications

Popular areas of application for IaaS are:

Website hosting – website hosting using IaaS can be cheaper compared to traditional hosting

Big Data Analysis – Big Data is a popular term for extremely large amounts of data that contain potentially useful patterns, trends and associations. In order to perform data mining on these data sets to determine the hidden patterns, extremely high processing power is required, which Infrastructure as Service can provide on an economic basis

Storage, backup and recovery – Enterprises avoid the capital expense of storage and the complexity of storage management, which typically requires professionals to manage the data and meet legal and compliance requirements. IaaS is ideally suited to meet unpredictable demands and ever-increasing storage requirements. IaaS also simplifies the planning and management of backup and recovery systems

Testing & Development – Teams can quickly set up and break down development and test environments to adopt new applications faster. Additionally, IaaS development / test environments can be scaled centrally, quickly and economically

High Performance Computing – High Performance Computing (HPC) on supercomputers, in grid computing configurations or on computer clusters can solve complex tasks with several million variables or calculations. These include, for example, earthquake and protein folding simulations, climate and weather forecasts, the creation of financial models and the evaluation of product developments

Web Apps – Infrastructure as a Service provides all the infrastructure components needed to support Web applications (including storage, Web and application servers, and network resources). With IaaS, organizations can rapidly deploy web apps and easily scale up or down the infrastructure when demand for these apps is unpredictable.

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