Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service, abbreviated to IaaS.  The traditional way of supplying computing services to businesses requires the purchase of dedicated computing hardware – servers, switches, firewalls and other devices.

Infrastructure as a service – abbreviated to IaaS – offers businesses a viable and compelling alternative to buying and managing their own computing infrastructure. Providers offer access to a pre-built, scalable, on-demand infrastructure which is owned and managed by the IaaS provider.  An IaaS service provides your company with fully managed and maintained computing (server) and network resources.  In its purest form, IaaS will not include a managed and maintained operating system (OS), but may include the option for  installing one as well as “bolt-on” security options.  IaaS is cloud computing in its rawest “no frills” form – but is ideal for business users and IT departments who need to manage software without needing to worry about hardware.

Common Uses

IaaS is the foundation for services such as – Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds, and virtual servers, Cloud Backup and Cloud Storage.

By leveraging server virtualisation technologies, IaaS providers can build a computing resource that lends itself to uses that require maximum flexibility and accessibility. Such an infrastructure can be built privately your business as in the case of Private Cloud, or publicly in the case of shared infrastructure uses like hosting and storage.

It is also an effective tool for Pre-Production testing for application developers, where short-term computing resources are required, and large batch processing where high capacity computing resources are required.

Advantages

Direct and Indirect Costs of owning hardware
IaaS effectively gives your business the option of renting access to managed hardware rather than procuring and managing it yourself. Not only does this allow your business to shift expenditure on IT equipment from Capital expense (CapEx) to monthly operating expense (OpEx), but it also negates the need for your company to pay for management of that hardware.

Reliability and Availability
By “outsourcing” your computing infrastructure management to the provider, you are signing up to your provider’s ability and expertise in managing the computing infrastructure environment. Since your provider is an expert in the field, their staff, facilities and resources are dedicated to the task of keeping their infrastructure up-to-date and arguably are in the best position to ensure and deliver maximum uptime and availability.

Future Proofing
Having deployed an IaaS service, your provider has invested in virtualisation technologies which give them the ability to upgrade specific hardware resources without necessarily affecting the service provided to their customers. The burden of investing in new hardware also moves from your company to your provider.

Contractual Freedom
IaaS is an “on demand” service – i.e. you can buy access to as much or as little computing infrastructure resources as and when you need it. This allows you to keep costs in line with demand and buy what you need when you need it. Furthermore, it can typically be purchased on reserved or unreserved resource-based billing, hourly, daily or monthly contracts.

Scalability (“Elasticity”)
IaaS is the basis behind the ultimate in computing flexibility – commonly referred to as “Elastic Computing”. This concept describes the scalability offered by IaaS, where you have access to a potentially unlimited resource pool of computing power and scale. This allows your computing to grow seamlessly with the growth and demands of your business, expanding and contracting with the peaks and troughs of demand.

Accessibility
IaaS is a cloud computing service – and like other forms of cloud computing it exists “in the cloud” and is accessible via the Internet. This means that IaaS is available from wherever you have an Internet connection. This makes it a highly effective tool for the centralisation of computing resources which are equally as accessible for all areas of your business, irrespective of location.

Things to watch out for

Whilst the advantages of building your business computing using an IaaS service are compelling, it is essential to be aware of the requirements, limitations and scope of the service you purchase. Here are some of the main things to take into account:

Data regulations
Increasingly, laws and regulations governing the protection of data are coming into effect and affecting businesses of all types. Compliance with such regulations can often only be achieved through having full control, responsibility and accountability for the data your business holds. Using an IaaS service can make this accountability and control harder to demonstrate – but it doesn’t have to. It is worth researching your IaaS provider’s data storage and security methodology and optons for 3rd party auditing for compliance.

Recovery from Disaster
By outsourcing the supply of your computing infrastructure to an IaaS provider you are clearly placing a lot of trust in that provider. By default the provider should have a system in place for Disaster Recovery (DR), but is it effective enough, extensive enough, and fast enough for your needs? Engage with your provider to understand how they approach DR and whether they can meet your business requirements. And keep in mind that your distaster recovery planning should now also include the recovery of your data in the event that your provider themselves becomes insolvent or for any reason becomes unable to continue providing the service.

Performance
IaaS should offer your business a computing infrastructure with superior performance capabilities and return on investment. Clearly all providers are not the same, so it is strongly advised to fully understand the performance which you’ll be guaranteed and how that is backed up with both a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and penalty clauses if necessary. No less important is the level of support you can expect to be offered – again governed by SLA. This needs to match or exceed what you would expect by operating these services internally within your organisation, and you need to establish firmly the demarcations of responsibility.

Connectivity
As with all cloud-based services, connectivity to the cloud (Internet) and the IaaS service is an essential piece of the puzzle. This connectivity will govern performance and uptime, and needs to meet your peak business demands, and be resilient to ensure availability. Evaluate the bandwidth and latency between your primary sites and your IaaS provider, and deploy a solution suitable to catering for your levels of usage.

Where to go from here?

Let Compare the Cloud’s Discovery service help you identify a suitable IaaS provider. We’ll assess your requirements and will present you with a number of suppliers based on key criteria.

Find your perfect Infrastructure as Service provider why not get in touch or use our simple walkthrough to save time and let Compare the Cloud do the work for you.