Today’s cloud based solutions are more versatile than ever. Each Cloud Service Provider (CSP) is constantly innovating and coming up with more efficient and reliable cloud solutions. Let’s highlight the few main types of cloud based solutions and discuss the pros and cons of each.
We can break down cloud solutions into three main classes. Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS, Process as a Service or PaaS and Software as a Service or SaaS. The common denominator among all these solutions is that they are served over a cloud network.
On-Premise v/s Outsourced
Let’s clarify the difference between an on premise and outsourced cloud solution for better understanding. Please note that all the above three forms of the cloud namely IaaS, PaaS or SaaS can be set up either as an on-premise solution or outsourced from some CSP.
In this setup, the entity that employs the cloud solution procures and sets up all the IT hardware over its own premise. This is a capital intensive option as all the hardware is the sole responsibility of one entity. An in-house data center is set up and the solution is served from this central point.
Despite the higher costs of setting up and maintaining an in-house data center, it allows the entity nearly absolute control over its data. Apart from the costs, this arrangement warrants a strong IT workforce both in numbers and expertise.
The other way to set up a cloud based solution is to avail it from a Cloud Service Provider (CSP). In this way, all the hardware is the sole responsibility of the CSP. In exchange for availing this facility, a company will pay the CSP a fee based on its usage.
A CSP based solution is preferred by most companies as they are relieved from the responsibility of IT hardware. They no longer have to invest heavily in a data center and also incur regular operating expenses to keep the hardware in optimal working condition.
Let’s discuss the types of cloud solutions, now that we covered the two main ways a cloud solution can be set up.
Infrastructure as a Service – IaaS
This is the most basic form of a cloud based solution. In IaaS, virtual desktops are created over a data center. These desktops are quite similar to your regular desktop PC as they have a certain processor, storage and RAM but all these parameters are virtual.
So far as the user experience is concerned, it is almost fully identical to that of a regular PC. A user can log into the virtual desktop from various devices such as smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. All the user needs is a web browser and internet connection.
IaaS eliminates the need for maintaining IT hardware in the organization. All users can enjoy a uniform working environment and the solution employing entity does not need to regularly maintain and troubleshoot its hardware. The aspect of multi device connectivity makes it a highly productive solution.
However, IaaS generally comes with a very limited functionality. Take the example of your regular PC but one that is stripped of all the productivity software that you use on a daily basis. A basic IaaS solution is also just like that. Therefore, an IaaS solution does not address the issue of productivity for an organization that moves to the cloud.
Process as a Service – PaaS
The correct term in fact is Business Process as a Service. Each organization has its own set of operations and processes. The main purpose of deploying computers in the first place is to execute business processes in a well-structured and efficient manner.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software bridge this gap for organizations. In a non-cloud ERP solution, the software will need to be physically installed on each and every end-point device of the organization. Any updates or patches will also be installed in the same manner.
Further, whenever there is some technical issue or bugs in the program, each device will have to be troubleshot individually. This is an administrative nightmare for organizations. Realizing this limitation, companies that design ERP software decided to make it central and take it over to the cloud.
In a PaaS solution, an ERP company will offer its stand alone or suite of programs from its data center. These programs will enable a company to plan its business processes much more effectively and track the progress as well. These software also bring operational efficiencies in organizations.
The limitations that these companies face in offering their solutions over the cloud are at times financial or administrative. They may lack the immense financial resources to invest in data centers and even if they do so, they feel incapacitated to serve a global clientele.
Software as a Service – SaaS
This cloud based solution is almost identical to a PaaS solution, with the difference that in this case, a certain productivity software is being offered over the cloud. Take the highly relatable example of Microsoft Excel that is loved by people for executing routine computing tasks and maintaining simple databases.
In SaaS, a software company will start offering its solution over the cloud from its data center. A user who wants to avail the software will simply do so for a pre agreed fee. Productivity software are a backbone of organizational efficiency and this can be achieved with great success over the cloud ecosystem.
The limitations of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS
However, there is an inherent limitation in all the above solutions if we look at them separately. An IaaS solution is incomplete without a fully compatible PaaS or SaaS solution, depending on the unique needs of any specific organization.
Similarly, a PaaS or SaaS solution, no matter how perfect, needs an operating system or infrastructure to execute upon. The conclusion is that unless there is a fusion between IaaS and PaaS or SaaS, the desired goals cannot be achieved. This has been one of the key impediments in cloud based solutions.
Failure of Stand-alone Solutions
The largest CSPs of the industry thought that as they had near limitless financial might, they could simple take over the entire cloud solutions landscape. They initially did not realize that they were offering a very basic iteration of the cloud solutions namely IaaS.
This does not undermine the importance of IaaS as it is the foundational building block of any cloud based solution. Still, it falls short of delivering the ultimate experience over the cloud due to the absence of PaaS or SaaS. This resulted in a serious dilemma for companies offering various cloud based solutions.
Companies that were offering PaaS or SaaS over the cloud thought that they could alone make room in the cloud solutions market as they could accomplish organizational processes effectively. However, they stood no chance of competing with the industry’s giants on pricing and features.
Middle-Ground and the Future of Cloud Solutions
We are currently in the era of a sweet middle ground in which IaaS, PaaS and SaaS providers are coming together and collaborating instead of competing with each other. The middle ground for this cooperation is that these cloud solutions providers have complementary advantages that can benefit all.
What does an end user ultimately want, it’s simply a cloud based solution that is a hybrid of both IaaS and PaaS or SaaS, depending on the requirement. The relatively small PaaS and SaaS providers can leverage their efficient solutions to large IaaS providers and achieve synergy.
Hybrid Cloud Solutions
This is the future of cloud based solutions where we are ultimately headed. IaaS providers will now collaborate with PaaS and SaaS providers and develop hybrid solutions that are fully compatible with the basic IaaS solution. This is great news for both the cloud employing organizations and their end users.
The outcome of this collaboration will be fully integrated and compatible turn-key cloud solutions tailored to the needs of each individual organization. What this means for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS providers is that they will share the overall pie of the cloud solutions market by collaborating instead of competing.
Welcome to the era of hybrid cloud solutions that have been jointly engineered by CSPs with a single goal in mind, superior user experience and maximum efficiency. These cloud solutions will further facilitate the migration of more organizations to the cloud as they will be able to avail turn-key cloud based solutions.
We can conclude that none of the cloud based solutions will benefit alone. Rather we will see a balanced and proportionate growth in the cloud solutions market for IaaS, PaaS and SaaS providers. What’s beyond any doubt is that the cloud market is well on track to grow for the coming few years.