The Difference Between SaaS, IaaS and PaaS

The Difference Between SaaS, IaaS and PaaS


Pavel Kaplunou

When we talk about digital products, we often come across the term Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). It helps distinguish between a product or service you can get for a one-time licensing payment or an ongoing fee-based payment. However, when it comes to application development and cloud computing, the SaaS term gets a few peers in the form of IaaS and PaaS. Let’s look at what they refer to exactly.

According to Gartner, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM and Alibaba shared the majority of the global public cloud market share. The tendency will hold up until 2023, where the big five will hold dominance with five other cloud service providers.

But first let us define the basics of what makes up the cloud.


What is the cloud?

In order to understand the different service models, we should give a definition to cloud computing first. Cloud computing can also be called on-demand cloud processing. Essentially it refers to a combination of computer data storage, processing power and network infrastructure. The ‘on-demand’ part means you pay as you, depending on the amount or number of resources you use.

Cloud computing has transformed how businesses work. As of January, 2019, IT expenses have been shifting from on-premise systems and servers, to cloud- and data center-based ones in the enterprise space.

The entire cloud stack can be essentially divided into several layers: Applications, Infrastructure, and Platform. The overall components of these layers are:

  1. Applications
  2. Data
  3. Runtime
  4. Middleware
  5. Operating System
  6. Virtualization
  7. Servers
  8. Storage
  9. Networking

We can bear these in mind when moving forward.


Infrastructure as a Service

As the name rightfully suggests, IaaS provides the infrastructure layer as a service, meaning the user does not have to worry about the operating system, networking, virtualization, servers, and storage capabilities (E-I). 

But what components сan the user actually interact with? Well from the list above, the user will have access to the Applications, Data, Runtime and Middleware (A-D).

Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC2 and Google Computer Engine are just two examples of an Infrastructure as a service solution. Using these solutions users can build and implement custom software or pre-built applications.


Platform as a Service

When it comes to PaaS, what the user or customer is essentially getting is everything from Runtime, Middleware, Operating System, Virtualization, Servers, Storage, and Networking (C-I).

PaaS essentially arms the user with the application stack layer, which allows them to develop and deploy within the digital environment. It boils down to managing the applications and data, leaving the server-side management to the platform provider.

Microsoft Azure is one example of a Platform-as-a-service.


Software as a Service

Arriving at SaaS will come as no surprise when we say that this includes the application, infrastructure and platform delivered as a ready solution. All users have to do is manage the information they work with, using the software that is made available over the internet.


Benefits of as a service solutions

There are many reasons as to why cloud services are coming up on top, compared to on-site storage and processing. Business leaders and software engineers, enjoy them for the following benefits in particular:

Cost – it takes arguably less overhead expenses to purchase cloud services and then scale up, as more resources become required

Time – software developers no longer have to manage routine and menial tasks, they can save time and dive into what they do best.

Agility – the pay-as-you-go model shines in all its glory in that it allows to expand technological resources to cater for rising needs, as they rise, not before or after.

Overall easier maintenance, and easy disaster recovery making business continuity possible. Cloud services are the go-to solutions of modern business and can be set up by in-house and outstaffed teams.


Wrapping up

As-a-service solutions have certainly made the lives of SMBs and enterprises much easier. However, customers entering the SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS market should be aware that some technical effort will still be required on their part. This is especially true for the Infrastructure and Platform solutions.

Companies of IaaS and PaaS ought to make sure they implement strict security practices to avoid loss of sensitive data or data theft. Moreover custom software development may be harder on provider platforms, where certain capabilities and operations may be ‘locked-in’. Luckily, the market boasts plenty of professionals, who are capable of setting up, configuring and running a cloud environment at any level.