Your Network and the Cloud: Understanding IaaS

Feature image for Your Network and the Cloud: Understanding IaaSCloud computing can be mystifying, and the space is evolving all the time. Your network must be customized to run the cloud infrastructure, platforms and applications that make most sense for your business. Before you can do that, you need to understand how these services work.

Today, we kick off a three part series looking at infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) which are the three parts of the cloud computing pyramid. To start with, we’ll look at IaaS, which is at the base of the pyramid, and how it can benefit your business.

IaaS Explained

Before the cloud, IT departments had to manage everything related to the network and technology. That included applications, data, operating systems, virtual computers, data storage, servers and internal and external networking – in other words, the whole infrastructure. Now, IT departments can effectively rent those services by using IaaS. An IaaS provider handles servers, storage and networking and operating systems, for which businesses pay a monthly or annual fee. As the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) puts it:

The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components.

Techtarget has an even simpler explanation:

Infrastructure as a Service is a provision model in which an organization outsources the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers and networking components. The service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it. The client typically pays on a per-use basis.

In other words, you no longer have to worry about the hardware, and can concentrate on other aspects of your business.

Deploying IaaS

There are several ways that IaaS can be deployed:

  • via a private cloud, where your organization is in charge of the cloud servers
  • via a public cloud, where the cloud may be owned by a government, academic or business provider and is available for use by the public
  • via a community cloud, where the cloud is operated by businesses or organizations forming part of a community
  • via a hybrid cloud, which links together two or more of the above types of infrastructure

Who Does IaaS Work For?

Whichever model you choose, IaaS allows multiple users to share hardware. It is scalable, with resources distributed and allocated as needed. That makes it a useful option for many businesses. The trouble with buying physical hardware is that it’s costly, and it takes time to expand the network infrastructure when you need to grow. Once expanded, you continue to pay for resources you may not be using. IaaS offers an alternative:

  • Companies can keep down business costs by avoiding paying for physical servers and storage and only paying for the virtual resources they use.
  • Companies in a period of rapid growth will benefit from the scalability and speed, which means that their customers won’t experience any lags in service.

IaaS Issues to Consider

If you are planning to use IaaS, there are several questions raise with vendors, including:

  • how resource usage will be measured and billed
  • how vendors will handle network security
  • what the service level agreement is for performance and scaling of the service

IaaS may not work for every company. If you are in a business where you have strict regulatory compliance requirements you may not always be able to outsource your infrastructure. And in some cases, you might need a dedicated network to meet your needs. In all other cases, IaaS is worth considering and some companies get pretty creative. (See how Sunesys connected a private circuit into IaaS.)

Additional Resources

Learn how Lumos can prepare your network for cloud computing and IaaS.

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