Cloud technology is more flexible and responsive than traditional IT infrastructure, which initially requires significant investments in in-house servers, data centers, and highly skilled personnel who are capable of working with such equipment. Today, company management and IT departments are faced with the difficult task of ensuring business continuity due to the isolation of employees. This requires serious changes both in the company’s IT infrastructure and the implementation of new applications, and this must be done very quickly.
All cloud services have the following characteristics:
- The user can start using the service immediately by simply subscribing to the service.
- The service is available from any device – laptop, PC, or smartphone.
- Resources (databases and servers) are shared by multiple users.
- Scalability and flexibility to increase capacity as demand increases.
- Payment is based on actual usage and is calculated automatically.
The whole range of cloud solutions can be divided into three large categories: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
What do they mean and when apply?
No company can do without IT infrastructure – even a small one needs servers to store databases or tools to connect employees’ computers into a common network. The company can buy servers and set up this infrastructure at their office, or simply lease cloud-based IaaS services.
Infrastructure refers to computing resources: virtual servers, storage, networks. This is a kind of virtual computers on which you can install an operating system, software, applications.
– Virtual servers (VPS/VDS) on which you can install various programs. Sometimes the provider offers servers with operating systems so that you can deploy the required applications more quickly.
– Network settings, which ensure the connection of virtual servers to each other, to external servers, and the Internet (VPN, load balancers).
– User access management. For example, you can limit access to virtual machines or allow viewing data, but forbid making changes.
– Cloud storage for storing files, data, or backups. They offer almost unlimited capacity and fast access speed to data.
– Backup and disaster recovery services that protect infrastructure against failures and data loss when individual nodes fail.
PaaS: Cloud Platform as a Service
Cloud service providers offer pre-configured platforms for different tasks.
The key difference between PaaS and IaaS is that you have specific tools, such as a database management system, machine learning, or big data processing environment. All you need is to configure them to your needs, without having to build from scratch. This significantly saves time.
In this case, you do not have access to the operating system, the virtual servers’, or the platform’s settings. The provider takes care of their configuration and eliminates the need for you to monitor settings, updates, scaling, and security. You only get access to the interfaces of the platform itself.
PaaS is already widely used by large and medium-sized corporations, as well as relatively small companies that do not want to invest money or delve into IT infrastructure issues but need to focus on application development.
Typical use cases PaaS:
Databases. A company can move part or all of its databases to the cloud. In the case of IaaS, the user only gets disk space and has to choose a database management system, install and configure it, ensure data protection and backups. With PaaS, the DBMS is already installed, you just need to configure it for yourself and download the data. The provider is responsible for serviceability and backups.
Big Data Analytics. PaaS can help process both historical big data and real-time data. Tools such as Apache Hadoop, Apache Spark, Apache Kafka, and others are used for this purpose. They are already installed and configured in the cloud, all you have to do is choose the right configuration.
Machine Learning. Such a platform as a service makes it possible to quickly develop applications based on deep learning.
Business management requires a lot of expensive software: customer relationship management (CRM), accounting systems (ERP), e-mail, document management, process and project management systems, collaboration, and other corporate applications.
SaaS allows using the necessary applications remotely, without deploying them on internal infrastructure, and without the expenses. SaaS technology allows at any time to quickly increase or decrease the number of employees who have access to a particular program.
This convenience, scalability, and certain savings are the main reasons why the SaaS model is gaining popularity among businesses of all sizes.
If you have a task that can be completely solved by a SaaS platform, it is cheaper and faster to use it rather than develop your custom solution.
For example, even a large company is hardly expected to develop its own email client – there are ready-made email services available on a subscription basis that have enough functionality to work with.