Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is a cloud-based, on-demand solution where a third-party vendor provides server management, data storage, and networking resource solutions to its clients.
An IaaS provider handles everything, so businesses don’t have to play administrator and waste time on all the technicalities of managing a cloud server. All that remains for businesses is setting up and managing the cloud infrastructure to run it in alignment with their organizational needs.
Enterprises go for an IaaS provider for easy accessibility, higher scalability, and reduced operational costs. In fact, adoption is indeed picking up the pace. Though SaaS remains the leading segment in cloud computing, IaaS is the fastest-growing cloud service in terms of revenue, with a 33.7% five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR). According to forecasts, the market size of IaaS will grow to $201.81 billion by 2027.
Though IaaS is being widely adopted today, there is always something new you could learn about the technology. Here, we have listed the core features, benefits, and use cases of an effective IaaS solution. And we compare the top IaaS providers, so you can determine which functions best in conjunction with your specific needs:
Choosing the right IaaS provider
Top IaaS providers
Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers an extensive range of services. It is considered one of the leading IaaS providers due to its market value, reach, and successful IaaS product. AWS has clients from over 190 countries all across the globe and holds a presence in 21 separate regions over the world, with 66 availability zones for better reliability.
AWS IaaS platform offers high-end APIs to handle low-end server associated tasks, such as physical computing and data distribution. Consequently, businesses don’t have to maintain direct interaction with the infrastructure, which saves time.
- AWS-supported processors include Intel, AMD, and Arm
- Users who need high-speed performance can enjoy up to 400 Gbps Ethernet networking
- Users can pick from more than 200 SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS services and choose how much compute, storage, or processing power they want
- For example, Amazon’s elastic compute cloud service offers a compute platform with over 500 options from the latest processors, storage sizes, networking capabilities, operating systems, and purchase models that align with the workloads
- Amazon EC2 Mac instances allow customers to run macOS workloads on the cloud
Prices can be estimated using the AWS price calculator here.
2. Microsoft Azure
Launched in 2010, Azure is one of the most popular IaaS providers that offer a wide range of features and benefits to run and manage corporate software applications. Azure’s IaaS platform eliminates the need to handle low-end operations by handling back-end procedures.
The user interface is easily comprehensible and operated, while both Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint can be integrated with Azure. One key strength of Azure is the responsive user community, which helps beginners take informed steps.
- Azure’s migration tools provide users with information on the available features and the cost of moving on-premises data to the cloud prior to moving
- Integration with Microsoft products and services
- Both Linux and Windows operating systems are available
- Reach up to 30 Gbps Ethernet speed and 200 Gbps InfiniBand
- Allows deployment of virtual machines (VMs), including up to 416 vCPUs and 12TB memory
Pricing is available upon submitting a request on the Microsoft Azure website.
3. Alibaba Elastic Compute Service
A Chinese IaaS provider, Alibaba Cloud, was founded in 2009, and it also goes by the name Aliyun. Alibaba provides a wide range of reliable IaaS solutions to enterprises in over 200 countries. It spans 69 zones in 23 different regions to deliver high-performance applications globally. Alibaba Elastic Compute Service (ECS) possesses fast memory and the latest CPUs, which are enough to power cloud applications with the lowest latency.
- Includes artificial intelligence (AI) tools
- A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) feature that prevents traffic from being disrupted
- High SLA commitment is available for both single and multiple instances at several availability zones
- Thousands of vCPUs become available for a single customer in a matter of minutes
Price estimations can be deducted from the Alibaba price calculator.
4. Google Cloud
Google Cloud Platform is presented by Google as an IaaS provider, which is favored because of its Google-backed characteristics. Google has created a customizable infrastructure where customers can leave the complex server or cloud-related operations to them. With Google Cloud, customers can use pre-built operating systems and tap the one-click boot-up time. Charges for Google Cloud Platform compute engines are based on per-second usage, and it is slightly cheaper than other cloud platforms.
- Quick set up with pre-built and ready-to-use configurations
- Create VMs with the ideal number of vCPU and memory with balanced cost
- The service is said to reduce computing costs by up to 91%
- Data processing and encryption are subsequent
- Automatic recommendations enable optimal resource utilization
- Convenient and straightforward migration tool
- Take intelligent decisions with Google data analytics services
Estimate the total cost of using google cloud IaaS by using their pricing calculator.
5. IBM Cloud
IBM Cloud is one of the top IaaS providers that offers a set of cloud computing services. For instance, some of the largest banks and largest airlines trust IBM’s expertise. IBM’s IaaS platform offers greater reliability, better integration, and tracking features. With advanced security capabilities and the ability to host servers in a private cloud environment, their IaaS solution is available both on-premises or at a corporate location in a data center environment.
- IBM’s 60 worldwide data centers help scale resources as per requirements
- Ready access to a comprehensive stack of computing features
- Custom hardware is offered with exact specifications to fulfill precise workload demands
- Leveraging Kubernetes to expand cloud applications to public cloud service providers and automatic management of RAM, storage, and CPU
- Get access to various SAP-certified cloud environments, including IBM Power, bare metal, VMWare, and virtual servers
Calculate the pricing with IBM cloud cost estimator.
Features of IaaS
Features of IaaS can be broken down into three main components. Namely compute, network, and storage. These functionalities allow users to build their own customized systems, making them as complex and powerful as they need, all with the ability to scale up and down as required.
The concept of IaaS computing begins with servers. Servers are powerful systems or computers that usually have several CPUs, hundreds of gigabytes of RAM, and thousands of gigabytes of storage. They are very expensive to acquire and hard to maintain. An IaaS service provider maintains data centers that house many of these physical, bare-metal servers. One can partition these physical servers into smaller virtual machines by using a hypervisor. These virtual machines can independently run their operating systems and applications, while drawing power from a bare-metal server.
Computation services also include optional features, such as load balancing, where the system remains load free because of automatically distributing the network traffic. Users get to choose the operating system while purchasing a virtual machine from an IaaS provider. They can also scale vertically and add more CPU if the VMs don’t have enough processing power or customize to handle more load.
Storage options can be divided into three segments: file storage, object storage, and block storage.
- File storage stores data as a single entity in the file. These storage files can co-exist or exist within each other as other data in a hierarchical order.
- Similarly, object storage takes saved data as a single entity but also attaches metadata and an identifier to it. Object storage is generally used to store whole objects over the network, such as image files, logs, or HTML files. Object storage is the most favored alternative, as it is cost-effective and easy to use.
- Block storage is a relatively familiar storage option that enables over the network access to a block storage device and links it to a virtual machine. Block storage saves data as blocks of actual bytes or bits. It has certain advantages over object or file storage, like faster data transmission though it is not as user friendly.
The network function interacts and connects all components, including the storage function, containers, VMs, servers, the internet, and the intranet. Networking ensures that information is transferred through the architecture regardless of endpoints. Depending on the amount of data that needs to be transmitted for computing, users may require higher networking bandwidths.
Benefits of IaaS
Higher performance, lower expenditure
One of the most notable benefits of IaaS is a prompt increase in organizational performance. IaaS technology opens your infrastructure to expert support provided by an IaaS cloud service provider of your choice. CSPs have a more reliable and robust infrastructure framework in place, which would be much more feasible and realistic than managing everything in the office environment.
This implies that with IaaS, you have the opportunity to save upfront costs associated with acquiring, maintaining, and operating hardware. This ultimately decreases the overall capital expenditure or IT spending, while businesses can achieve higher performance levels on the existing infrastructure.
IaaS allows in-house IT teams to focus on achieving business goals and objectives rather than upgrading to the latest hardware or maintaining the infrastructure. With an SLA, you can ensure that incorporating IaaS gives you the best performance from your cloud provider’s infrastructure. It obliges your cloud provider to continuously upgrade features and functions on their end to provide the best possible service.
IaaS involves managed information security as a critical element in addressing security concerns within the infrastructure. A cloud infrastructure exposed to threats can put all operations at risk. As IaaS cloud service providers deal with huge amounts of data, they are known to make significant investments to strengthen their IT security features, so you may trust them with your data. They also leverage strict access guidelines for both physical and virtual locations and incorporate multiple forms of authentication.
IaaS also involves advanced information security features, including end-to-end encryption, CASB, IDS/IPS, intrusion detection. This gives your organizational data a higher level of security and protection as compared to hosting on site. However, it is vital to determine your security requirements and know and compare security policies and the available measures for data protection while choosing an IaaS provider.
Scalability and flexibility
The attribute of high scalability and flexibility make IaaS future proof and capable of serving as a durable solution. IaaS technology enables you to scale your business up or down, on demand, based on the requirements, at any given time. For instance, if your business decides to host a digital campaign that drives more traffic to your website than usual. In this case, IaaS can allow your business infrastructure to handle the increase in traffic through procedures, like automatic provisioning of resources.
Moreover, when your business expands or multiplies to new locations, you won’t have to invest time and funds to initiate new hardware or infrastructure components. You can simply virtually connect to your cloud infrastructure and continue operations as usual. IaaS gives growing businesses and their IT infrastructures enough flexibility to expand freely and with minimal disruption.
Reinforced disaster recovery and business continuity
IaaS cloud computing prepares your enterprise cloud infrastructure for the worst-case scenarios. For most businesses, it would be almost impossible or extremely expensive to recover from a failed cloud infrastructure. Most IaaS cloud service providers host their data and equipment in highly secure environments, which are constantly available.
These purposefully built data centers have all the resources to preserve the infrastructure, such as uninterrupted power, cooling systems, and reliable network connectivity. On the other hand, office-based deployments have several other processes and cannot maintain their data centers efficiently.
Minimal downtime is another benefit of IaaS just because everything is hosted on the cloud. Constant availability and remote access make it possible for the business to remain productive from any location in the face of any calamity, hence saving precious uptime.
IaaS use cases
Rapid testing and development: As a part of the development pipeline, IaaS enables IT teams to rapidly create, test, and develop environments automatically to bring new applications to market faster.
Run and deploy web applications: IaaS fulfills all infrastructure requirements to run large-scale web applications, including storage, servers, and networking functions. It also enables speedy web application deployment and easy application scaling.
Easy storage, backup, and recovery: IaaS helps organizations respond to storage requirements on-demand while managing data, maintaining backup and recovery systems, and complying with legal and regulatory requirements. It helps save up on the upfront cost of managing data.
Enabling high-performance computing: IaaS allows organizations to leverage HPC as a part of their service, which is otherwise a hefty investment. Businesses can solve complex problems involving countless variables and calculations with the help of supercomputers or clusters of computers.
Big data analytics: Big Data processing requires a complex infrastructure involving high-speed databases, distributed processing engines, and extensive storage systems. IaaS providers make all this infrastructure available as a service, along with features like machine learning and AI.
What to look for in IaaS providers
Considering the type of business and processes you represent is the first step when it comes to evaluating IaaS providers. Get input from multiple departments and make sure all issues and concerns are considered before making a decision. Identify key features that you expect from the infrastructure service that address all your concerns. Here are several key factors that you need to ensure while selecting an IaaS provider.
- Customizability and data portability
- Well-defined infrastructure migration
- Dependable SLA
- Security and regulatory requirements
- Data center expertise
- Unbiased recommendations
Lastly, maintain a transparent relationship with your service provider and define your needs clearly. All this considered, your cloud infrastructure will be ready to bring optimal results to your organization.