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Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

What is Infrastructure as a Service?

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offers users a pre-built, scalable, on-demand infrastructure which is owned and managed by the IaaS provider. This gives businesses an alternative to buying and managing their own IT infrastructure.

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 one of a number of ‘bolt on’ security options.

Who is IaaS for?

IaaS is ideal for business users and IT departments who need to manage software without needing to worry about hardware.

By leveraging server virtualisation technologies, IaaS providers can build a computer resource that lends itself to uses that require maximum flexibility and accessibility. For example, it is an effective tool for pre-production testing for application developers where computing resources are required short-term. Or for large batch processing where high capacity computing resources are required.

What are the advantages of IaaS?

IaaS effectively gives your business the option of renting access to managed hardware rather than procuring and managing it internally. Not only does this shift the expenditure from a capital expense to an operational expense, it also negates the need for the business to pay for the management and upgrade of that hardware.

In addition, the business benefits from greater elasticity of IT infrastructure – allowing your computing provision to grow seamlessly in line with business growth and the peaks and troughs of demand.

You also benefit from the expertise of your Cloud Service Provider (CSP) who will be a specialist in the provisioning and management of data centre resources and services; they are arguably in the best position to ensure and deliver maximum uptime and availability.

Are there any risks involved in IaaS?

As with most cloud solutions, compliance with regulations concerning the management of data – and your own internal data management policies – will need a bit of thought. Using an IaaS service can make accountability and control harder to demonstrate. And the Snowden revelations have raised some concerns about who has access to data stored in the cloud. To address these concerns and ensure compliance, it is important to research and understand your IaaS provider’s data storage and security methodology and ensure that the lines of responsibility are clearly drawn.

In addition, it is vital to understand what disaster recovery planning is in place. Again, responsibilities need to be clearly defined and bear in mind that your disaster recovery plan should include eventualities for the recovery of your data should your provider themselves for any reason be unable to continue providing the service.

What do I need to do before implementing Infrastructure as a Service?

Understand the security, data management and compliance policies and the disaster recovery strategies of the providers you are considering.

It’s the same as outsourcing any service – you need to do your due diligence on the supplier to ensure they comply with your business policies.

You also need to fully understand the performance which you’ll be guaranteed and how that is backed up with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which includes penalty clauses for failure. The demarcation of responsibilities must be clearly understood and contractually explicit. No less important is the level of support you can expect to receive – again this must be governed by an SLA. This needs to match – or exceed – the service levels you would expect to receive were you operating these services within your organisation.

What’s next?

Check out our Cloud Builder page for additional tips about what to consider before moving software or services to the cloud. Learn about other cloud computing services such as Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).