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What is IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)?

Ryan Goodrich, Contributing Writer

Infrastructure as a Service provides access to computer hardware in a cloud-based environment.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a cloud computing service model. As is the case with all cloud computing models of business, IaaS provides access to computing resources in a cloud-based environment. In the case of IaaS, the computing resources provided are virtualized hardware, or a computing infrastructure. Such product offerings range from virtual servers to network connections to load balancers.

The core concept of IaaS

The main appeal behind any cloud computing service is that the hardware and software used is virtualized. The hardware resources used in IaaS are pulled from multiple servers and networks located across multiple offsite data centers, and maintained independently of the company using the service. An organization simply pays a monthly fee to use these resources as needed internally, and the cloud host is responsible for ensuring the ongoing care of the hardware and virtualized services.

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The benefits of IaaS

IaaS caters to the same consumer mentality as with two other service models — Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) — namely that these services can be used by businesses to create cost-effective and easily-scalable methods of creating IT solutions. The complexities and expenses commonly associated with an IT infrastructure can grow quite inordinate, and yet remain easily overcome through a cloud provider. That way, if an organization needs to quickly grow with operational fluctuations, they can tap into cloud resources as needed rather than purchasing, installing and integrating new hardware internally.

Additional capabilities of IaaS are quite numerous, offering the following solutions:

Enterprise-level infrastructure. IaaS establishes an internal business network in the form of a private cloud and virtual local networks, utilizing a pooled server for storing company data and running applications needed each day. This basic structure allows for easy business expansion while still providing necessary data protection in a cloud setting.

Cloud hosting. Rather than storing hardware within a business’s facilities, they can host their websites and virtual servers through a pooled collection of physical servers elsewhere. This provides countless benefits, such as security redundancies and on-demand scalability.

Virtual data centers. Creating a virtualized network of interconnected servers can only serve in enhancing cloud hosting capabilities, creating an ideal environment in which a public or private cloud is implemented.

The infrastructure created through IaaS can significantly cut down on expenses and personnel requirements in many different ways. Infrastructure as a Service accomplishes this with the following benefits:

Scalability. Typically when an organization experiences significant growth, it needs to purchase new equipment, install and implement it and train employees in its use. IaaS cuts out all of the first two steps, allowing for immediately-available resources for easy growth.

No hardware investment. Much of the expense associated with a comprehensive IT solution is the hardware. Rather than spending thousands on servers that might break at any moment, investing in a cloud hosting solution removes the risk of hardware failure and the need for ongoing maintenance.

Utility style cost. Rather than paying for hardware in its entirety and not utilizing it fully, with IaaS you pay for what resources you actually use, thus saving money over the long term.

Location independent. In the event of a power outage at your place of business, keeping servers in-house can become quite problematic as they’re suddenly unavailable to any consumers that use them. Housing server resources in an independent location ensures

Hardware security. Services made available through cloud hosts have secure data centers with multiple physical security measures.

No single point of failure. Due to the redundant nature of cloud hosts, if one server or network switch were to fail, the data center would remain unaffected due to the numerous hardware resources it would naturally reroute activity levels through. Even if an entire data center were to fail, the host would have secondary and tertiary centers to ensure continued online function.

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IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

IaaS provides services for creating an effective business infrastructure in the form of server and network resources, allowing for the availability of a private cloud and virtualized local network. Platform as a Service caters to software developers, providing a platform and environments in which they can build applications and similar services over the internet. Software as a Service offers a combination solution of IaaS and PaaS, giving consumers access to a software application over the Internet. Each of these caters to a different type of consumer, whether they need hardware or software resources for accomplishing specific tasks.

IaaS providers

IaaS typically follows a pay-as-you-go model, allowing a business to determine how much it can afford each month or how many resources it actually needs. Companies like Amazon Web Services, Bluelock and IBM are among the more prominent IaaS solutions, offering lower IT costs and increased levels of efficiency within the organization for a low monthly rate.

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