What in the world is the difference between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS? As my friend and corporate storyteller Fred Bals once said: “If you’re like me, the wonderful world of tech acronyms is one ginormous pain in the, ah, aaS, if you know what I mean.”
The reality is that you see new “as a service” cloud offerings popping up every day, such as video as a service, ransomware as a service, security as a service and even robots as a service. But at the core of all these different services are simply an operating system and applications, and the hardware on which they live.
How Did This All Begin?
The cloud computing aaS trend began with software as a service, which are the services a supplier offers on a “pay per use” basis. But then came new acronyms for new offerings: infrastructure as a service and platform as a service, which were differentiated by self-service, pay as you go and dynamic (scale up or down as needed). These services all boil down to where the lines of responsibility are drawn between the supplier and the customer. Ultimately, there is no difference in the end-product, because it doesn’t change. The difference lies in what the customer selects and wants to be responsible for.
If you are still confused, let’s use our favorite food – pizza – as an allegory to explain the difference between SaaS, IaaS and PaaS. We can all relate, because who doesn’t love pizza? So here we go!
A company has been selling pizza ingredients for years, such as flour, cheese, tomato sauce and spices. This company is good at selling the ingredients, and they brag about themselves all the time. This is their world – selling the individual ingredients of the pie.
But, wait! Now their customers suddenly don’t want just the ingredients anymore – they want the whole dang pizza! And they want it now! The company soon comes to the realization that they need to do something different in order to be competitive and continue growing their business. So they decide to transition to a services model and begin selling the whole pies, because this is what their customers want – instant gratification.
Tasting the 4 Slices of the Pie
- Traditional on-premises systems: In the pizza world, that translates into you doing everything yourself – everything from buying the ingredients, getting the equipment needed to turn those ingredients into a cooked pizza, and supplying the dining table and beverages for your complete pizza dinner.
- Infrastructure as a service or “take and bake frozen pizza”: Here, all you need is the oven to warm and serve that pizza. IaaS usually means having the vendor take care of the hardware running the work load, making sure the server, storage, load balancers, network, etc., are all at peak performance.
- Platform as a service or “pizza delivery”: In the pizza world, all you need to do is set the table, because the pie will be delivered to you ready to eat. With PaaS, the only things you need to be concerned with are the application-specific features and settings. The infrastructure and platform are taken care of by the vendor.
- Software as a Service or “dining out”: Pizza-wise, you’re dining out and enjoying a thin-crust or deep dish Chicago-style pie in the restaurant of your choice. With SaaS, you’re free to concentrate on your business, because everything is being managed for you. So worrying about patches, security and maintenance upgrades will never trouble your mind again.
Getting Into the Pizza Business
Traditional IT companies can sometimes be service challenged. But they must get on the cloud aaS bandwagon quickly, because the old IT market is over and done. If they delay, their businesses could suffer.
Moving to cloud aaS offerings can transform existing business products, processes and legacy systems into a collection of services that can be used both inside and outside the organization, help streamline IT operations and potentially generate new revenue streams.
But how do you start the move? You simply have to start thinking differently and reorienting from systems to services. The transition can be complex, but taking these steps as outlined by Deloitte University Press will help make it an easy, positive and productive experience.
- Reimagine current offerings as services: Review your current systems and product offerings, and imagine how recreating them as services could expand or accelerate your business model. The most exciting opportunities might be services that could form the backbone of new products, services or offerings.
- Start on the edges: When moving to a services-based platform, start small with something like an inventory tracking system or a customer help desk, rather than tackling an enterprise resource planning system right out of the gate. By transforming your front office or cash management system, you can methodically deploy each new service in a more manageable pilot program. From there, you can build upon each to link services throughout the enterprise and eventually offer them to the market. Remember this rule of thumb: Migrate first, and then modernize. Starting with baseline services may provide the foundation you’ll need to create more new services.
- Acquire different skillsets: Your IT department will likely need new skillsets as it moves from traditional systems and processes to the new world of API management and cloud-based services. While you may be able to retrain some of your legacy talent, consider adding team members with a few battle scars from having worked in an aaS environment. “As a service” actually represents a cultural and mindset change more than a technical shift. Experienced engineers, designers and other IT talent who have thrived in this culture can often serve as catalysts for change in more traditional IT organizations.
- Shore up your foundation: Once you’ve identified services to build and deploy, determine whether any of them are foundational systems you’ll need to overhaul as part of the transition. It is critical to understand how a new service fits into the overall architecture.
Grab Your Piece of the Pie
Nobody wants to make a pizza at home anymore. They want their pizza steaming hot and placed on the table in front of them. The same goes for your customers. They want their IT service instantly, and they don’t want to worry about the details. Looks like the cloud “as a service” economy is here to stay.
So are you ready to take your customers from buying just the ingredients to dining on the whole pizza in their favorite restaurant? Then, it’s time for you to take the plunge into the world of cloud aaS with Arrow.
Contact your Arrow representative at ECSCloudServices@arrow.com or 877.558.6677 today and get started!
By Bryan S. Hamilton
Cloud Solution Architect
Last modified: November 26, 2019