Cloud 101: How to Choose the Right Cloud Infrastructure for Your Company

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Don’t let complicated cloud computing decisions overwhelm you — get back to the basics with this overview of different types of cloud services and environments.

According to Gartner, the worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 18 percent in 2017 to a total of $246.8 billion. The highest growth is expected to come from cloud infrastructure services (IaaS), followed by cloud application services (SaaS).

Despite this massive growth in cloud computing, most companies are still figuring out their cloud strategy as they consider the multidimensional uses of cloud services.

That’s why we’ve decided to publish a cloud technology primer on different types of cloud services and environments, in which you’ll get a quick, clear summary of the differences between private, public, and hybrid clouds, as well as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

Related: Download this free eBook featuring an in-depth comparison of 5 approaches for migrating workloads to the cloud.

We like to think of cloud technology as a table, where the rows are your cloud service types (IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS) and the columns are cloud environments (public, private, and hybrid).

  Public Cloud Private Cloud Hybrid Cloud
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)      
Platform as a Service (PaaS)      
Software as a Service (SaaS)

Any cloud-based tool or infrastructure should fit into one or more of the cells in this table. Below you’ll find an overview of each element.

Types of Cloud Services

What Is Infrastructure as a Service?

Different types of cloud services provide different levels of readiness or development.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the least ready-made cloud computing service, which means it offers developers the most control because it’s as close to hardware as you can get.

With IaaS, you pay for on-demand access to compute resources, RAM memory resources, disk storage, and networking components while enjoying rapid scalability and cost efficiency. There are multiple vendors in this space, but Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform dominate the market.

What Is Platform as a Service?

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides the next level of readiness or development. It is typically delivered as services for developers or architects as opposed to end users.

The main idea of PaaS is that it hides the infrastructure from users and provides additional functionality on top of the infrastructure. For developers and architects, this means spending more time using platform functionality to drive business value rather than sorting through complicated infrastructure concerns.

One of the most popular PaaS use cases is database as a service — for example, AWS Relational Database Service (RDS).

What Is Software as a Service?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a full-blown software solution that people use just like desktop applications — only they’re hosted remotely. The SaaS market is growing quickly at the expense of legacy on-premise solutions.

Even if this doesn’t sound immediately familiar, it’s likely you already use SaaS. For example, your old local Exchange server can be replaced by Gmail. Your internal CRM system may already have succumbed to the power of Salesforce. Even long-standing Microsoft Office users can now adopt the SaaS-based Office 365.

With the ease of implementation, rapid scalability, and cost efficiency, it’s no surprise that the SaaS model is on the rise for businesses of all sizes.

Choosing the Right Type of Cloud Service for Your Business

Your application use case usually dictates whether IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS is the right approach.

If you need to run virtual machines in the cloud, you’re looking for an IaaS vendor.

If you need a database, you could provision virtual machines using IaaS and install a database on them or you might prefer a PaaS solution in which you receive a ready-to-use database from the cloud provider.

And if you need something like CRM in the cloud, SaaS is really the simplest approach.

Types of Cloud Environments

What Is Private Cloud?

Many people confuse the term “private cloud” with traditional virtual environments. While the private cloud requires virtualization, not all virtualization can be labeled part of the private cloud. Self-service and on-demand resource allocation are key features of the private cloud which aren’t inherent to all virtual environments.

What Is Public Cloud?

At the core, public cloud environments aren’t much different than private clouds. Both offer users on-demand access to resources — but while private clouds are operated by internal teams, the public cloud is a service offered to external parties.

When you use the public cloud, you’re buying into multi-tenant services. The public cloud lets you take advantage of benefits such as dynamic scaling and pay-as-you-go variable pricing models that make IT resources much more cost-efficient for businesses.

Unlike the private cloud, which has seen slow adoption due to perceived similarities to standard on-premise IT, the public cloud is booming. According to the 2017 Cloud Migration Survey Report, 42% of computing resources will be located in the public cloud by 2018 whereas only 12% will be in the private cloud.

There are many considerations when adopting the public cloud — privacy/security, cost, flexibility, control, and compliance just to name a few — but the tangible benefits are enough to entice even the most demanding organizations.

What Is Hybrid Cloud?

If “private cloud” is the most misused term in cloud computing, hybrid cloud is a close second. Many people believe that hybrid cloud applies to any organization that uses both public and private cloud environments.

A true hybrid cloud is when those public and private cloud environments are woven together into a single seamless experience. There are many misconceptions when it comes to a true hybrid cloud and, as a result, few organizations actually have one today.

Even if you’re actively trying to build a hybrid cloud, it’s difficult to take separate public and private clouds and move data/applications/services between them without any issues.

No matter how you look at cloud computing, one thing is clear — cloud-based environments and services are the future, and companies must adapt. Once you know all of the basics, you can start planning your migration to whichever combination of cells in the table works best for you. To learn about the leading cloud migration methods, download this free eBook on 5 Approaches for Migrating Workloads to the Cloud.

2018 DR Survey Report