According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cloud services are a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
One of the cloud’s biggest benefits is automation. When your organization utilizes cloud computing services correctly, you remove layers of management. You won’t be responsible for the physical data centers, operating systems and hardware.
By removing these layers, you can cut costs and minimize the time spent on repetitive, prone-to-error IT tasks. Instead of maintaining hardware, middleware and software, you can focus on innovation and scale your applications on demand. More enterprises are turning to cloud to reinvent their applications and take advantage of new deployment strategies.
Cloud services delivery models
Cloud services models represent a specific, pre-packaged combination of IT resources offered by a cloud provider. Six common cloud services models have become widely established and formalized: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Storage as a Service (STaaS), Data as a Service (DaaS), Function as a Service (FaaS).
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is a form of cloud computing that provides virtualized computing components (Virtual servers with CPU, memory, storage, network access, etc.) over the Internet. IaaS consumers do not manage or control the physical cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications.
Companies that lack an owned data center can turn to IaaS for a quick, cheap infrastructure that can be expanded or terminated as their business requirements change. Traditional companies that need compute power to run variable workloads on tight budget are perfect uses cases of IaaS adoption as they will only pay for the services they use.
Popular IaaS offerings like Rackspace Open Cloud, Amazon EC2, IBM SoftLayer, and Google’s Compute Engine (GCE) are silently powering a huge portion of the backbone of the internet, whether users realize it or not. Open source options include OpenStack and Apache’s CloudStack.
Storage as a Service (STaaS)
Storage as a service (STaaS) is a cloud services model in which a company leases or rents its storage infrastructure to another company or individuals to store either files or objects. Small companies and individuals often find this to be a convenient methodology for managing backups, and providing cost savings in personnel, hardware and physical space.
In general, STaaS operates through a web-based API that is remotely implemented through its interaction with the client application’s in-house cloud storage infrastructure for input/output (I/O) and read/write (R/W) operations. If the company ever loses its local data, the network administrator could contact the STaaS provider and request a copy of the data.
When it comes to end-user-level cloud storage, Dropbox, Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft OneDrive are among the leading end-user-level cloud storage providers. For enterprise-level cloud storage, Amazon S3, Zadara, IBM’s SoftLayer and Google Cloud Storage are some of the more popular providers. ownCloud and Cozy Cloud are powerful Open Source cloud STaaS solutions.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the next level up in the cloud services pyramid. This computing delivers development/operating environments as a service. It includes set of tools and services designed to make coding and deploying the applications quickly and efficiently.
A PaaS provider hosts the hardware and software on its own infrastructure. As a result, PaaS frees users from having to install and manage in-house hardware and software to develop or run a new application.
Development companies and/or factories that want to implement agile methodologies are the most suited for PaaS. PaaS providers publish many services that can be consumed inside applications. Those services will be always available and up-to-date.
Cloud consumers not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment. Prime examples include Amazon AWS, Salesforce Platform, Azure from Microsoft and Google App Engine. For those looking for Open Source PaaS platforms, OpenShift Origin, OpenPaaS and Cloud Foundry are probably your best options.
Data as a Service (DaaS)
In the DaaS computing model (a more advanced, fine-grained form of STaaS), data (as opposed to files) is readily accessible through a Cloud-based platform. Data (either from databases or object containers) is supplied “on-demand” via cloud platforms (as opposed to the traditional, on-premise models in which the data remains in the customer’s hands) and the vendor provides the tools that make it easier to access and explore.
Based on Web Services standards and service-oriented architecture (SOA), DaaS provides a dynamic infrastructure for delivering information on demand to users, regardless of their geographical location or organizational separation – and, in the process, presents solution providers with a number of significant opportunities.
DaaS eliminates redundancy and reduces associated expenditures by accommodating vital data in a single location, allowing data use and/or modification by multiple users via a single update point. Typical business applications include customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), e-commerce and supply chain systems and, more recently, Big Data analytics. Some of the best-known enterprise-level providers are Oracle’s Data Cloud, Amazon DynamoDB, Microsoft SQL Database (formerly known as SQL Azure) and Google Cloud’s Datastore. For open source projects, Apache Cassandra, CockroachDB or CouchDB will almost certainly catch your eye.
Function as a Service (FaaS)
The idea behind FaaS is the concept of serverless computing via serverless architectures where developers can leverage this to deploy an individual “function”, action, or piece of business logic. They are expected to start within milliseconds and process individual requests and then the process ends and cleans-up after itself.
Principles of FaaS:
- Complete abstraction of servers away from the developer
- Billing based on consumption and executions, not server instance sizes
- Services that are event-driven and instantaneously scalable.
Function as a service (FaaS) services that provide a platform allowing customers to develop, run, and manage application functionalities without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching a complete application. Building an application following this model is one way of achieving a “serverless” architecture, and is typically used when building micro-services applications.
FaaS is an extremely recent development in the cloud services pyramid, first made available to the world by hook.io in October 2014, followed by IBM Cloud Functions, AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Functions and Microsoft Azure Functions. On the open source side of FaaS, there is IBM/Apache’s OpenWhisk (launched in 2016) and, more recently, Oracle Cloud Fn (2017), both of which are available for public use.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
In the SaaS paradigm, he capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through either a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g., web-based Web-based emails), a programming interface and more recently, mobile devices.
SaaS offerings are the most widely visible of all the cloud computing service models. In fact, many users might be using SaaS products without even realizing it. Popular products like Google’s G Suite, Microsoft’s Office 365, Zendesk, Slack and Salesforce are all SaaS offerings used by thousands of businesses every day. Some providers also offer their products under a SaaS model, such as SugarCRM or Acquia (Cloud-based Drupal sites).
With cloud services, you don’t need to make large upfront investments in hardware and spend a lot of time on the heavy lifting of managing that hardware. Instead, you can provision exactly the right type and size of computing resources you need to power your newest bright idea or operate your IT department. You can access as many resources as you need, almost instantly, and only pay for what you use.
That’s why cloud services have revolutionized the way IT departments develop and run their business tools. No matter whether it’s SaaS, PaaS, DaaS, STaaS, FaaS or IaaS, there is a suitable cloud service model to fulfill virtually any IT need you can think of.