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What is IaaS?

IaaS (infrastructure as a service) is a cloud service model that offers on-demand infrastructure resources, such as compute, storage, networking, and virtualization, to businesses and individuals via the cloud.

IaaS is attractive because acquiring computing resources to run applications or store data the traditional way requires time and capital. Organizations must purchase equipment through procurement processes that can take months. They must invest in physical spaces, typically specialized rooms with power and cooling. And after deploying the systems, they need IT professionals to manage and maintain them.  

All this is challenging to scale when demand spikes or business grows. You run the risk of running out of capacity or overbuilding and paying for infrastructure that you never use.

These challenges are why IaaS use is steadily growing. Learn more about Google Cloud IaaS products and solutions.

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IaaS defined

Infrastructure as a service—also known as IaaS—is the on-demand availability of highly scalable computing resources as services over the internet. It eliminates the need for enterprises to procure, configure, or manage infrastructure themselves, and they only pay for what they use.

IaaS explained: How does it work?

IaaS in cloud computing is when you rent access to cloud infrastructure resources as individual services from a cloud service provider (CSP), including servers, virtual machines, networking resources, and storage. IaaS helps eliminate much of the complexity and costs associated with building and maintaining physical infrastructure in an on-premises data center.  

The CSP is responsible for managing and maintaining the infrastructure, so you can concentrate on installing, configuring, and managing software and keeping your data secure. IaaS providers also offer additional services, such as detailed billing management, logging, monitoring, storage resiliency, and security. 

You can access IaaS resources using a pay-as-you-go basis, allowing you to only pay to consume the resources that you need. In other words, you can easily increase or decrease resources, allowing you to pay less when needed or instantly provision and scale out resources to meet new demand.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

Like other “as a service” models, such as Platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service models offer a degree of management. But what exactly is the difference between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS? The answer is that they each provide a different cloud service: an infrastructure environment versus platform tools versus complete applications.

Depending on the service type you choose, the CSP manages different elements of the computing stack:

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

For IaaS models, the service provider hosts, maintains, and updates the backend infrastructure, such as compute, storage, networking, and virtualization. You manage everything else including the operating system, middleware, data, and applications. 

IaaS examples: Compute Engine, Cloud Storage.

Platform as a service (PaaS)

Like IaaS models, for PaaS models, the service provider delivers and manages the backend infrastructure. However, PaaS models provide all the software features and tools needed for application development. You still have to write the code and manage your apps and data but do not have to worry about managing or maintaining the software development platform.

PaaS examples: Cloud Run, App Engine.

Software as a service (SaaS)

With SaaS service models, the service provider delivers the entire application stack—the complete application and all the infrastructure needed to deliver it. As a customer, all you have to do is connect to the app through the internet—the provider is responsible for everything else. 

SaaS examples: Google Workspace.

IaaS security

Unlike traditional on-premises environments, cloud security is a shared responsibility between service providers and their customers. 

With IaaS models, the CSP secures the resources and other hardware that support the underlying infrastructure, including compute, storage, patching, and the physical network. As a customer, you will be responsible for securing your data, applications, virtual network controls, operating system, and user access. 

While security is often cited as one of the disadvantages of IaaS and cloud computing in general, the truth is that cloud is no more or less secure than on-premises environments. In fact, it can offer more comprehensive protection against threats. 

Reputable cloud service providers also offer secure-by-design infrastructure and robust cloud security services on their platforms that often exceed what you can accomplish on your own. They are constantly investing in advanced technologies and highly skilled experts, enabling them to provide the latest security capabilities and solutions to help protect every layer of computing. 

In other words, IaaS security is only as secure as your cloud service provider makes it. Therefore, it’s extremely critical that you carefully evaluate providers and thoroughly understand their security capabilities and responsibilities before making a decision.

What are the benefits of IaaS?

It’s economical

Because IaaS resources are used on demand and enterprises only have to pay for the compute, storage, and networking resources that are actually used, IaaS costs are fairly predictable and can be easily contained and budgeted for.  

It’s efficient

IaaS resources are regularly available to businesses when they need them. As a result, enterprises reduce delays when expanding infrastructure and, alternatively, don’t waste resources by overbuilding capacity.

It boosts productivity

Because the cloud provider is responsible for setting up and maintaining the underlying physical infrastructure, enterprise IT departments save time and money and can redirect resources to more strategic activities.

It’s reliable

IaaS has no single point of failure. Even if any one component of the hardware resources fails, the service will usually still remain available.

It’s scalable

One of the biggest advantages of IaaS in cloud computing is the capability to scale the resources up and down rapidly according to the needs of the enterprise.

It drives faster time to market

Because IaaS offers virtually infinite flexibility and scalability, enterprises can get their work done more efficiently, ensuring faster development life cycles.

Advantages of IaaS

Cost savings

IaaS helps reduce your upfront capital expenditures. Resources are used on demand, meaning you only have to pay for the compute, storage, and networking resources that you consume. IaaS costs are fairly predictable and can be easily contained and budgeted for. 

Increased efficiency

IaaS resources are regularly available to businesses when they need them. As a result, organizations can reduce provisioning delays when expanding infrastructure and, alternatively, avoid wasting resources by overbuilding capacity. 

More innovation

IT teams not only have more time to spend on strategic work, IaaS makes it fast and affordable to test new products and ideas. You can easily spin up the necessary computing infrastructure without having to wait days or weeks for it to be ready, speeding up development lifecycles and time to market. 

Reliability

IaaS platforms have no single point of failure. Cloud infrastructure offers built-in redundancy and fault tolerance, with workloads spread across multiple servers and facilities. Even if one component of the hardware resources fails, the service will usually remain available. 

High scalability

One of the biggest advantages of IaaS in cloud computing is the capability to automatically  scale resources up and down rapidly. You can accommodate sudden spikes in demand almost instantly and scale back when the resources are no longer required. 

Lower latency

Most cloud service providers achieve greater availability and resiliency with the help of a global network that covers multiple geographies. You can minimize latency and increase performance by placing apps and services in the regions and zones closest to your end users. 

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Do you need IaaS?

One of the primary reasons businesses choose IaaS is to reduce their capital expenditures and transform them into operational expenses. IaaS provides storage, compute, and networking options that don’t require them to purchase and maintain vast private server rooms that take up a lot of energy and space. 

If you have unpredictable workload volumes or the need to move swiftly in response to business fluctuations, you might also turn to IaaS as a cost-effective way to support your operations. 

If your organization experiences any of the following, you’re probably a good candidate for IaaS:

  • High business growth that outpaces infrastructure capabilities
  • Unpredictable spikes in demand for infrastructure services
  • Low utilization of existing infrastructure resources
  • Large volumes of data that overwhelm on-premises data stores
  • Slow response times with on-premises applications 
  • Application performance limitations due to capacity constraints
  • Slow hardware refresh cycles

These scenarios require more infrastructure scalability and agility than traditional data centers can provide.

IaaS use cases and examples

IaaS offers a broad range of possible applications that can benefit organizations. Here are some examples and common use cases:

Run testing and development

The computing and networking power of IaaS makes it a perfect environment to run and manage testing and development cycles.

Improve disaster recovery preparation

Because IaaS is scalable and reliable, businesses can consolidate disparate disaster recovery systems into one virtualized environment.

Perform big data analysis

Storing and analyzing big data requires a lot of processing power. IaaS is an appropriate environment for big data because it can handle large workloads.

Handle spikes in traffic

IaaS can handle unexpected traffic spikes by scaling as necessary.

Provision resources quickly

IaaS makes it possible to get new projects up and running quickly when urgent business priorities arise.

Google Cloud, offered by Google, is a suite of cloud computing services that runs on the same infrastructure that Google uses internally for its own consumer products, such as Google Search, Gmail, and YouTube.

 Google Cloud offerings include IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Its IaaS products allow enterprises to mix and match these services into combinations that provide the precise environment they need.