Tech is full of jargon. I feel like a new jargon is invented every few weeks or even every day! I think it would be very interesting if Google were to publish a list of technology terms showing each term’s debut on the internet. There are terms that you can ignore or forget right after you have heard or read them. And then, some terms will keep appearing in your software business or professional developer life again and again. I want to shed some light into a few such terms that anyone interested in an internet business might have to tackle until new ones replace them. These terms are SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. These popular tech jargons represent technology abstraction, and no one seems to be pointing out this fact when comparing them. First, let’s see what these terms mean on the surface:
- SaaS — Software as a Service
- PaaS — Platform as a Service
- IaaS — Infrastructure as a Service
SaaS is ideal when you want to abstract all the underlying infrastructure, security, scalability decisions, and responsibilities to a vendor providing software as a service.
SaaS allows you to use a software as a service without knowing what’s under the hood.
On the other hand, PaaS is ideal when you want to take advantage of a ready-made platform to deploy your software applications. You delegate your duties of choosing the right hardware, optimal operating systems, security, and performance best-practices to the platform vendor. You still control how your applications run on the platform. And you can take advantage of the platform’s reliability without needing to worry about platform-level security, scalability, etc.
PaaS allows you to run your applications on a known platform that is managed by an expert vendor.
IaaS is ideal when you want full control over everything but the lowest level of the infrastructure — hardware and virtualization. You build virtual servers running your choice of operating systems, tune them with your security and performance best practices, and take on all the responsibilities of scalability, reliability, and security on your own hands.
Finally, there is another choice for you — the Bare Metal cloud. A decade ago, most companies would buy servers, storage, and network equipments and rent out data center spaces to host their applications on the internet. The competitive nature of cloud services and with the convenience of spinning on/off servers on-demand made bare metal hosting option a moot point for many small to medium size companies.
However, like machine learning, online video processing, gaming, and programmatic decision making market places expanded, many companies are finding PaaS, IaaS, etc. as a limiting factor. So vendors are now offering bare metal cloud service — where you get to spin on/off servers, storage, and network equipment on demand and not share them with noisy neighbors in a virtual server environment offered by IaaS or PaaS.
Which one is right for you?
Consider doing a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threats (SWOT) analysis before jumping on board with any.
All of them abstract hardware, which means you are not subject to hardware issues, upgrades, and, most importantly, the capital cost of hardware.
They all offer scalability on-demand — as you need it — no upfront cost of paying for what you don’t yet need.
You are not in control of any hardware selection. You often cannot control what type of virtualization they are using under the hood and how other customers may impact your performance.
If you are a new startup with a tight budget, SaaS, PaaS, and even IaaS might be the best place to start building your traction.
On top of the lack of control of hardware and prospect of noisy neighbors, you also risk data exposer to third parties that you don’t have any control over. When you use PaaS or IaaS, where you are in a virtual storage environment, your data might be exposed to third-parties. For example, say you are running an e-commerce service on an IaaS and trying to become PCI compliance by performing a self-audit through a third-party auditing service. If they request that you give them a bit-by-bit copy of the virtual disks to investigate, they might find other customer’s deleted data in those disk images! Similarly, someone else can see your insecurely deleted data from their share of the virtual disk!
What is the most popular?
According to GoogleTrends, SaaS is the most common term that people search in all search categories (web pages, youtube videos, images, etc.). A quick look at GoogleTrends result for these terms for the last 5-years shows that SaaS is the most searched term and for some weird reason PaaS spikes every so often while IaaS is pretty flat as shown in the chart below.
What do we use @EVOKNOW?
We have two units of business in our company: mid-range enterprise e-commerce solutions provider and several in-house, self-funded startups. We went with an IaaS solution that is mostly comprised of multiple cloud providers. AWS for CDN and media storage, Linode for programmatically scalable servers, and several SaaS solutions for email, SMS, tax return processing services.