Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) hosts infrastructure on the public cloud and private cloud instead of in a traditional on-premises data center. The infrastructure is delivered to customers on demand while being fully managed by the service provider.
What is Infrastructure as a Service?
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a computing model that offers resources on-demand to businesses and individuals via the cloud.
IaaS is attractive because acquiring computing resources to run applications or store data the traditional way requires time and capital. Enterprises must purchase equipment through procurement processes that can take months. They must invest in physical spaces: typically specialized rooms with power and cooling. And after deploying the systems, enterprises need IT professional to manage them.
All this is challenging to scale when demand spikes or the business grows. Enterprises risk running out of capacity or overbuilding and ending up with infrastructure that suffers from low utilization.
How does Infrastructure as a Service work?
IaaS customers access resources and services through a wide area network (WAN), such as the internet, and can use the cloud provider’s services to install the remaining elements of an application stack. For example, the user can log in to the IaaS platform to create virtual machines (VMs); install operating systems in each VM; deploy middleware, such as databases; create storage buckets for workloads and backups, and install the enterprise workload into that VM. Customers can then use the provider’s services to track costs, monitor performance, balance network traffic, troubleshoot application issues, and manage disaster recovery.
Any cloud computing model requires the participation of a provider. The provider is often a third-party organization that specializes in selling IaaS. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are examples of independent IaaS providers. A business might also opt to deploy a private cloud, becoming its own provider of infrastructure services.
Advantages of IaaS
Taken together, there are many reasons why someone would see cloud infrastructure as a potential fit:
- Pay-as-you-Go: Unlike traditional IT, IaaS does not require any upfront, capital expenditures, and end-users are only billed for what they use.
- Speed: With IaaS, users can provide small or vast amounts of resources in a matter of minutes, testing new ideas quickly or scaling proven ones even quicker.
- Availability: Through things like multizone regions, the availability and resiliency of cloud applications can exceed traditional approaches.
- Scale: With seemingly limitless capacity and the ability to scale resources either automatically or with some supervision, it’s simple to go from one instance of an application or workload to many.
- Latency and performance: Given the broad geographic footprint of most IaaS providers, it’s easy to put apps and services closers to your users, reducing latency and improving performance.
Disadvantages of IaaS
Despite the considerable advantages of Infrastructure as a Service in terms of flexibility, stability, and efficiency, there are some circumstances where it may not be the best approach.
- Cost: Despite the virtues of pay-as-you-go pricing, some businesses are reluctant to commit IT spending without physical assets to show for it. Itemized billing and costs associated with IaaS can be higher than anticipated, especially during temporary spikes in demand.
- Control: Because service providers own the infrastructure, customers do not have the same visibility into day-to-day administration, configuration, and performance details as they might be accustomed to for assets under their direct control.
- Sovereignty: Businesses that are required to maintain physical custody and accountability over their data and compute resources are limited in their ability to use cloud-based resources.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Use Cases
Software Testing and Development Through IaaS Cloud
The availability of virtual machines makes it easy for software development teams to quickly initialize and dismantle test and development environments with desired characteristics. Streamlined testing enables new software development strategies such as continuous delivery and deployment, and helps teams bring their product to market faster.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service Web-based Application Deployment
IaaS infrastructure is ideal for hosting and supporting web-based applications and includes the capability to increase available resources to support the application during periods of higher-than-normal demand.
Big Data Analysis with Cloud IaaS
Organizations that wish to analyze large data sets require a huge amount of computing power. IaaS provides a budget-friendly option for organizations that need to recruit large volumes of computing power for data mining and analysis purposes.
Challenges of infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
IaaS enables greater control of IT infrastructure within an organization. Characteristically, IaaS models have cost structures that are problematic to forecast and manage. On the other hand, PaaS has a cost structure that can be more carefully managed. Although PaaS is making inroads and is expected to grow relative to IaaS in the future, some organizations will choose control over cost.
IaaS billing can also be problematic, despite its pay-as-you-go model. Cloud billing is tremendously granular and broken down to echo the exact usage of services. Cost breakdowns for every resource and service involved in an application deployment can add up quickly.
Because IaaS cloud service providers own the infrastructure, the precise details of configuration and performance in the infrastructure are mostly unclear to the customer. This lack of transparency can make systems management and monitor more complex.
Finally, the availability and performance of the workloads are highly dependent on the cloud service provider. If the IaaS provider experiences network blockages or any form of downtime, internal or external, the customer is affected. And because IaaS is a multitenant architecture, a gluttonous neighbor can negatively impact workloads as well.
In the end, it all comes down to which service best fits the organization’s specific project or future plans. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is just one of a growing number of cloud service provider models to diversify provider offerings and cut waste from data management.