Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is a cloud computing service from a cloud service provider where you receive access to compute, storage, and networking resources on-demand and are charged for what you use. Additional services include billing management, logging, monitoring, storage resiliency, and security. In this model, the IaaS provider maintains the physical infrastructure, so you can concentrate on the development of your core business software. Businesses use the IaaS to migrate some or all of their use of on-premises or collocated data center infrastructure to the public, private, or hybrid clouds to become more agile, and innovate faster.
When to use IaaS?
Companies that face the following challenges are the prime candidates for IaaS adoption:
Your current infrastructure doesn’t support your fast business growth.
You can't upgrade your on-premise infrastructure as often as needed.
You buy costly infrastructure but never use it at its full capacity.
Your infrastructure constraints limit your apps' performance.
Your on-premise storage resources are constantly overwhelmed.
Unpredictable user traffic spikes constantly lead your apps to crash.
Your on-premise applications have slow response times.
Advantages of IaaS
IaaS allows us to eliminate infrastructure management burdens, increases operational agility, and offers greater scalability for our apps.
Reduced capital expenditures
With an on-premise setup, the company manages its own data centers. They must acquire servers, storage, and development software and set up their own networking. Besides that, data centers must invest in physical spaces with special power and cooling systems. They need IT experts to purchase, manage, and upgrade all the equipment and licenses. Procurement processes can take months.
IaaS is more economical because resources are provided on demand. You only pay for the computing, storage, and networking services you have consumed. IaaS maintenance expenses are much more predictable and easily budgeted. Each resource is offered as a separate service which you can add to your system as needed.
IaaS providers offer price calculators and cost management tools to make administering your expenses a seamless process.
The main disadvantage of IaaS here is that you still have to purchase, install, configure, and manage operating systems, middleware, and applications.
Increasing Application Availability
Businesses often need to scale their application up or down according to changing demands. For instance, eCommerce companies experience seasonal traffic spikes, especially during the holidays. IaaS servers allow them to overcome these challenges with infrastructure provided on a pay-as-you-go basis. With cloud computing services offering almost unlimited resources, companies can easily meet all their business, legal, and compliance needs.
IaaS providers have advanced content delivery networks with data centers distributed across the globe. You can choose to scale your application in areas that are closer to the customer. This way you increase performance while reducing network latency. Ultimately, you can create a setup that reaches all your customers geographically. With traditional on-premise infrastructure, it's a hard task to achieve.
Improving disaster recovery, reliability, and business continuity
With IaaS, there's no need for heavy infrastructure maintenance and troubleshooting hardware issues. Cloud service providers ensure %99.9 availability of their servers with service-level agreements (SLAs). Workloads can be spread between multiple servers and data centers, so even if one of your components fails, another one will take over.
IaaS servers are equipped with fault-tolerance mechanisms that establish high reliability for your solutions. You can easily set up data back-ups and sync them automatically. With these tools in place, you can save costs and forge robust business continuity processes.
Innovate and bring new app features to users faster
Upgrading your current solution or launching a new product is much easier with IaaS as you can instantly create a dedicated environment for development, testing, and delivery. Infrastructure can be ready in minutes or hours, rather than in days or weeks, so you can be more focused on business innovation.
IaaS Use Cases
Initially, companies used IaaS mostly for temporary purposes. Today we see startups, enterprises, and state organizations use IaaS for the development and hosting of customer-facing web apps, data warehousing, and analytics solutions, as well as for data storage, backup, and recovery tasks. IaaS supports internal applications such as ERP, supply chain, or finance.
There are different scenarios when you would apply IaaS infrastructure.
The Least Expensive Method of Migrating to the Cloud
Moving your existing software from on-premise to IaaS is the fastest way to cloud adoption:
it’s the fastest and least expensive method of migrating;
you lower your expenses by eliminating costs associated with on-premise maintenance;
you don’t need to completely refactor your application while taking advantage of the enhanced performance and security.
Quickly Scalable Development and Testing Environments
Development and testing in production are tightly associated with the risk of system crashing that can result in damage to a company's reputation and financial losses. So development and testing environments are crucial. However, it’s again about infrastructure issues for you and your DevOps teams.
With IaaS, you can easily set up and discard development and quality assurance environments, continuously delivering updates to your applications at lower costs.
The environments can be instantly scaled up or down within a few clicks so you can test new ideas, and deliver the new version of your app to market faster.
Web Applications Hosting
Web application hosting is a traditional low-cost way of using IaaS. It can be used for information websites, complex data delivery web systems, and mobile app backends.
High-performance computing (HPC IaaS solutions)
Complex predictions and modeling (like simulating all aspects of vehicle engineering; risk modeling in financial services; insights in genomics, precision medicine, and clinical trials) require high-performance computing solutions.
With IaaS infrastructure you can simply scale your resources upward and pay for the amount you use. It's a much more cost-efficient way compared to traditional hardware upgrades to sustain such computational tasks.
Quickly Scalable Storage and Computing Power for Big Data Analytics
Searching for relationships and patterns within a mountain of information requires enormous, backend processing power to analyze the high volume of data and get the job done in a reasonable amount of time. With IaaS, data can be stored in large volumes and processed.
Simplifying Planning and Management of Backup and Recovery systems
Traditional storage management is complex, costly due to capital outlay, and requires specially trained personnel to meet legal and compliance regulations. IaaS provides data backup and recovery features that outperform traditional methods. For example, the cloud provides off-site locations in the event of a primary data center disaster.
How does Infrastructure as a Service work?
Infrastructure resources in IaaS are provided via virtualization. The cloud computing platform provides you with choices for different types of infrastructure and configuration. After you've made your choice, the system creates digital environments called virtual machines with their own CPUs, memory, network interface, and storage.
Virtualized resources function in the same way as physical hardware, so on a business level, everything works the same as with on-premise servers. However, you get the advantages that come with using IaaS infrastructure.
Cloud providers offer additional services such as load balancing, security, clustering, monitoring, and storage resiliency. Businesses are able to create policies to automate crucial infrastructure tasks and configurations across multiple applications which lead to advanced system orchestration.
For instance, companies can establish load-balancing policies to sustain optimal application availability and performance as well as configure automatic backups.
Ultimately, IaaS allows you to create an infrastructure with performance monitoring with minimal intervention from your team.
Types of IaaS Services
IaaS provides compute services, storage services, and networking services.
IaaS compute resources include central processing units (CPUs), graphical processing units (GPUs), and internal memory (RAM).
Typically a virtual machine packages together CPUs, internal memory, and storage. IaaS users select virtual machine packages that fit their business needs.
Compute services come paired with additional services like load balancing and autoscale to make sure businesses make the most of their infrastructure capabilities.
IaaS providers offer three types of data storage resources: object storage (the most common mode of storage in the cloud), file storage, and block storage (more complex to scale).
Hierarchical file storage provides a centralized way to store files within a rigid directory/subdirectory/folder structure and works well with easily organized amounts of structured data. However, the file retrieval process can become time-consuming, as the number of files grows.
Block storage stores data in blocks like an SSD or hard drive and is ideal for containers. Such type of data storage offers faster performance than file storage because it breaks a file into blocks of data and stores each block separately under a unique address. It takes less time to access a file by pulling the blocks back together, than navigating through directories and file hierarchies.
Object storage stores data as objects similar to those in object-oriented programming. It’s a preferred method for backing-up unstructured media and web content like emails, videos, image files, and web pages, as well as sensor data produced by the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s also ideal for archiving large volumes of pharmaceutical data or music, image, and video files - data that does not change frequently. Cloud-native applications are built today using cloud-based object storage as a persistent data store.
IaaS physical infrastructure also comprises networking devices such as routers, switches, and load balancers that are available through APIs.
As with computing and storage resources, IaaS platforms virtualize the functionality of this hardware to provide cloud networking services on-demand. Use cases include the building of multi-zone regions and virtual private clouds.
IaaS vs Bare Metal Cloud
You can achieve an even lower level of control over cloud infrastructure than traditional IaaS with bare-metal-as-a-service (BMaaS) sometimes also called dedicated servers.
This type of cloud service does not virtualize the computing, storage, and network resources, but instead provides direct access to the provider's infrastructure. It enables almost complete control of the underlying hardware without sharing its resources with any other cloud service customers.
Without virtualization, BMaaS also offers higher performance which is beneficial for complex computing tasks. Additionally, companies who are familiar with operating traditional on-premise servers will feel very comfortable with orchestrating BMaaS-hosted applications.
At the same time, BMaaS does not carry the scalability benefits of traditional SaaS where you can easily provide more resources in case of usage spikes and balance the load across different servers.
The choice between BMaaS and IaaS depends on the requirements of a specific business case. BMaaS generally works great for high-performance computing, GPU computing, big data, analytics, and other tasks with high resource consumption rates.
Security and compliance responsibilities are shared under the IaaS model with the appropriate service agreement.
In most cases, the level of security attained in a cloud environment bests any on-premise setup. IaaS providers guarantee that the infrastructure they provide as a service is completely secure. For that they oversee security measures taken at every level:
Physical security is ensured by monitoring the premises of data centers via advanced surveillance systems making use of security cameras, video recording, motion sensors, and sentries.
Infrastructure security (compute, storage, patching, and the physical network) is attained with restricted access, monitoring, and regular maintenance.
Data security is achieved with strong encryption, back-ups, and regular third-party audits for compliance with protection regulations.
As a user of IaaS, you are responsible for securing your data, applications, virtual network controls, operating system, and user access.
IaaS providers offer sophisticated tools to monitor your app's security and respond to potential threats. And that is provided out-of-the-box, without the need to bear the expenses to develop and set up your own tools.
Cloud providers stay on top of the latest security standards and upgrade their services to better protect their infrastructure from outside and internal threats. However, each service provider has its own approach to protecting its customers. So make sure you carefully evaluate their offerings.
In Iaas you are usually charged for the consumed amount of resources. However, cloud providers have come to introduce a variety of pricing models to accommodate various businesses:
Subscriptions and reserved instances. Often cloud providers offer discounts to users who are ready to sign up for a longer subscription period, usually 1-3 years.
Monthly billing. Monthly billing is traditional for Bare Metal as-a-Service (BMaaS) provision where the infrastructure is meant to support applications that don't experience user traffic and consumption spikes.
By the hour/second. It's a very popular pricing model used for traditional cloud infrastructure.
Transient/spot. Some providers offer temporary usage of freed-up resources which can be reclaimed by their original users when needed.
Take advantage of IaaS cloud infrastructure
Transitioning to a cloud setup is a process that requires both business strategy and technical expertise. Our team of experienced engineers and cloud developers can assist you in migration and help choose the right cloud delivery model.