What is IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)?
If you’re planning a move to the cloud, or you’ve already started your cloud migration journey, you’ve likely heard of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
With a market value of $108.81 billion in 2022, and predicted growth to $531.84 billion by 2030, IaaS offers a flexible and cost-effective way to access cloud computing resources and is a great alternative to traditional on-premise infrastructure.
With this in mind, its place in your technology stack should be a no-brainer, enabling organisations and development teams to focus on delivering products and services without worrying about the underlying IT infrastructure.
Let’s take a deeper dive into Infrastructure as a Service and how you can use it in your cloud transformation strategy.
How Infrastructure as a Service works
IaaS provides users with virtualised computing resources hosted on the cloud provider’s infrastructure, including providers such as AWS and Microsoft Azure.
Users effectively rent servers from the provider, enabling them to access resources through a wide area network (WAN) without the maintenance and operating costs of personal servers. Here’s a breakdown of how IaaS operates:
Cloud infrastructure setup
The IaaS provider will build and maintain a data centre comprising physical servers, storage devices and networking equipment. This infrastructure is distributed across multiple locations to ensure redundancy and high availability.
Hypervisor software is used to partition and virtualise the data centre’s physical resources. A hypervisor enables the creation and management of several virtual machines (VMs) on a single server. Each VM acts as an independent, isolated computing instance with its own operating system and applications.
Users can interact with the IaaS provider through a web-based dashboard or application programming interface (API). The dashboard allows them to control and manage virtualised resources, while the API enables programmatic access to the cloud infrastructure.
Unlike traditional infrastructure where resources were not always readily available, IaaS means users can request specific resources from the provider. This could be anything from virtual CPUs and RAM to storage or networking components. These resources are provided on-demand, with users only charged for what they use.
IaaS is completely scalable. Users can scale their resources up or down depending on the needs of the business at any given time. For example, periods of increased web traffic can benefit from the almost instant addition of more virtual machines or resources to handle the load. Likewise, in quieter periods, they can scale down to save money.
With a pay-as-you-go model, users are only billed for their resource consumption. This could be the number of virtual machines deployed, storage space utilised, data transfer etc.
Some providers offer additional managed services including load balancing, data backups, security services and auto-scaling. These services help companies focus on the running of the business, while the underlying infrastructure is managed by the cloud provider.
Benefits of Infrastructure as a Service
IaaS can be hugely beneficial for businesses, offering a much more efficient alternative to owning and managing private infrastructure. Businesses can truly harness the power of the cloud and respond to changing needs quickly, without worrying about the complexities of managing physical infrastructure.
Here are some of the key advantages of Infrastructure as a Service.
Without costly physical hardware to purchase and maintain, IaaS offers great cost savings. Businesses can simply pay for the resources they use, significantly reducing up-front capital expenditure and operational costs. This scalability also allows for cost optimisation within the business.
Instant scalability is a real possibility with IaaS, allowing businesses to rapidly increase or decrease computing resources to meet changing demands. From seasonal spikes to traffic spikes, IaaS enables greater agility without overprovisioning or resource shortages.
With IaaS, users can configure their VMs and infrastructure to suit specific requirements. For example, they can choose the type of operating system, apps, and networking configurations to best meet their workloads.
Unlike traditional on-premise infrastructure, IaaS enables businesses to quickly set up and provision virtual machines and resources. Some instances can be launched in mere minutes, significantly reducing the time it takes to deploy new apps and services.
International businesses can use their provider’s global data centres to deploy resources closer to their target audience, improving both latency and the overall user experience.
Continuity and redundancy
Many IaaS providers implement redundancy and failover mechanisms to ensure reliability across your infrastructure. If one data centre has an outage, your services will be automatically rerouted to other available locations.
Security and compliance
Security is key when it comes to infrastructure. IaaS is typically more secure than traditional on-premise solutions, with most providers investing heavily in data encryption, access controls, compliance and firewalls.
With the underlying infrastructure managed by the provider, IaaS removes the pain of infrastructure maintenance. Instead, organisations can focus on the core business goals.
IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS
If you’ve heard of Infrastructure as a Service, you’ll likely have heard of Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Each of these categories of cloud computing offers different levels of control and responsibility to users.
IaaS is responsible for providing VMs over the Internet. Users have the highest level of control, with the ability to manage the operating systems, apps, and data. IaaS is best for businesses needing complete control over their infrastructure.
PaaS offers a platform and environment for developers to build, deploy and manage applications. Users do not manage the underlying infrastructure but do have control over the applications and data. Businesses focusing on app development and deployment are great candidates for PaaS.
SaaS uses a subscription basis to deliver software applications over the internet. Users have minimal control of the underlying infrastructure or application code with SaaS and instead, can only configure the app settings and data. Those who want ready-to-use apps would benefit from SaaS products.
How to implement Infrastructure as a Service
It’s one thing knowing how Infrastructure as a Service works, but it’s another knowing how to implement it.
Top tips for IaaS implementation
Businesses keen to implement IaaS can do so using either public, private, or hybrid cloud environments. Here are the steps you should take to successfully implement Infrastructure as a Service.
- Define requirements and goals
Outline your requirements to establish exactly what you need from IaaS. This should include types of resources, expected scalability, security needs, budget constraints and any compliance requirements.
- Choose your team
Implementing IaaS can be a big change for some businesses. At the beginning of your journey, start with a small team who will lead the change, solve problems and “market” IaaS to the rest of the business.
- Select a provider
Research different IaaS providers to ensure you select one that resonates. You should compare their capabilities, pricing, data centre locations, security features and customer support.
- Design network architecture
You need to design the network architecture for your IaaS implementation. This includes deciding on the network topology, security groups, subnets, and network access controls.
- Identity & Access Management (IAM)
IAM roles should be set up with permissions that control user access to different cloud resources. You should limit access to only necessary employees.
- Provision virtual machines
The next step is to configure VMs to suit your business requirements. Here is where you’ll select the appropriate operating systems and software stacks.
- Configure your network
Connect your VMs to the network and assign public and private IP addresses.
- Implement monitoring solutions
To understand how your VMs and network infrastructure are performing, set up monitoring solutions. Most IaaS providers have built-in monitoring tools you can use, but if not, you can integrate third-party monitoring solutions.
- Add security measures
It’s important to implement security measures to protect your infrastructure. You should enable data encryption, configure firewall rules, and implement MFA.
- Plan for backup and disaster recovery
You’ll want to prevent data loss and ensure business continuity should the worst happen.
- Test and train
It’s important to test your IaaS implementation to make sure it meets your requirements and hits optimal performance. Then, you can provide training for your team on how to use the platform effectively.
With thorough planning already done, you can migrate to your new IaaS platform. This step should be thoroughly thought out to avoid disruption. It might be worth opting for a hybrid cloud to migrate slowly, ensuring everything works as it should.
IaaS use cases
There are several use cases for IaaS, helping businesses to leverage cloud-based resources and meet organisational goals.
IaaS is an ideal solution for website hosting and website infrastructure, enabling users to deploy web servers, databases, and content delivery networks to handle web traffic efficiently. The scalability of IaaS is also valuable when managing varying website loads.
High-performance computing (HPC)
Some organisations require intense computational power and IaaS allows them to access high-performance computing clusters on demand, without needing to invest in specialist or costly hardware.
Big data analytics
Data is still king in today’s workplace, and IaaS delivers the computing power and storage businesses need to process large-scale data analytics and workloads.
Development and testing environments
IaaS is a flexible and cost-effective solution for businesses that want to create development and testing environments. VMs and networking resources can be quickly provisioned, production environments replicated, and test scenarios played out - all without physical hardware.
IaaS can be used to address a multitude of business needs and challenges. While these are just a few of the use cases, Infrastructure as a Service can also be used to support IOT infrastructure, ML, and AI.
Choosing the right Infrastructure as a Service provider
You must choose an IaaS provider that has a positive impact on your business. When evaluating your options, there are several factors to consider.
You’ll already have an idea of what you want to achieve, so it’s vital that you select a provider that has these capabilities. Assess the service offerings of each provider to ensure they align with your needs.
Budget is important. Compare each provider’s pricing structure and assess this in line with your expected resource consumption and overall cost-effectiveness.
Data security is imperative when it comes to selecting an IaaS provider. Evaluate the security measures that each provider offers, including encryption, access controls, network security, and data privacy compliance.
When researching providers, be sure to check Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for guaranteed availability and performance metrics. You should also look at where their data centres are located so you can ensure low latency for your target market.
You’ll likely need to use the provider’s support team at some point in your IaaS journey. Choose a provider with a proven track record of good customer support and technical assistance.
If flexibility is important to you, select a provider that can scale your resources. Compare how quick or easy this is for each provider to help you make an informed decision.
Nasstar solutions for cloud technologies
Nasstar’s expertise in cloud technology means we can support your business to transform with the cloud and achieve more than you thought possible.
We are an accredited consultancy partner with both AWS and Microsoft Azure, giving you two great IaaS providers to choose from. This, paired with our expertise, knowledge, and capabilities, ensures you get the best from your investment.
What is the difference between IaaS and PaaS?
The key difference between IaaS and PaaS is the level of control users have. IaaS enables you to create a complete cloud-based service, while PaaS provides a platform for developers to build apps without hosting them.
Can I use my existing hardware with an IaaS provider?
With the IaaS model, you would rent the hardware infrastructure from the IaaS provider. This means you can save money and time spent buying and maintaining it.
What are the potential risks of using IaaS?
While IaaS is a great solution, it doesn’t come without pitfalls. Some of the risks of using IaaS include difficulty guaranteeing compliance with data management regulations and potential data loss.
Is IaaS suitable for small businesses?
IaaS is suitable for all types of businesses and can be particularly beneficial for small businesses. SMEs typically do not have the space for on-premise infrastructure, or the budget required to maintain it so would be best placed to use IaaS.
What is the future of Infrastructure as a Service?
IaaS is expected to continue an upward trajectory in terms of both users and market value. As well as the social changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic expanding the ‘as a Service’ market, organisations are no longer willing to tie up their capital in IT infrastructure. They need platforms and services that are easy to consume, improve their bottom line and improve lead times within the business. That’s where IaaS comes in.