Cloud Computing Architectures Compared – IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

Cloud computing has come a long way whether you mean the technology itself or the ways companies have adopted it over the past years. If your organization is making the leap or considering switching architectures, we could help you better understand the different offerings.

Cloud computing architecture comes in many different flavors. The most three popular architectures among enterprises are detailed below.

  1. IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
  2. PaaS – Platform as a Service
  3. SaaS – Software as a Service

IaaS vs PaaS vs SaaS

Though the three architectures take up different positions,  the only difference is all about where they sit within a technology stack.

IaaS sits at the very bottom of the stack and involves the virtualization of your core network infrastructure like data center servers and storage. PaaS moves a little further up your stack and is more focused on streamlining some of the more time consuming and redundant IT tasks like application development and managing operating systems. SaaS is at the topmost level of cloud services and is essentially hosted versions of software which eliminates the need for IT to manage hundreds of different applications.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

With IaaS, a brand essentially buys or rents server space from a vendor. They can then take advantage of the scaling potential guaranteed by the vendor while managing every detail of their applications,  from operating system to middleware to runtime without any assistance from the IaaS vendor.

IaaS is often used to describe “cloud services” or “managed infrastructure services”. IaaS involves providers offering dedicated or cloud-based server and network infrastructure where the provider generally manages the hardware (swapping failed hard drives and that sort of thing) and sometimes the operating system of the infrastructure itself.

IaaS is generally a good fit for organizations looking for high levels of customization for their infrastructure and hence it requires a high degree of technical proficiency within an organization. It gives you total control by managing your own infrastructure in a public cloud, but you’ll need the resources and expertise to comfortably configure and manage your own infrastructure.

Examples,

  • AWS (Amazon Web Services)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Compute

IaaS Best Use Case

IaaS solutions are best suited to brands with a highly skilled set of developers who work to build applications and digital experiences from scratch, manage traffic loads and server maintenance and then scale when required. If you have a technical team, you may ask them to spin up a service or application with IaaS, which gives them full control over everything that happens.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

With platform-as-a-service or PaaS, the vendor provides its customers with the same server space and flexibility, but with some additional tools to customize applications more easily. Furthermore, a PaaS vendor handles things like operating system, runtime, middleware, virtualization, and storage although the client or customer manages their own applications and data.

PaaS describes both the infrastructure and software for building digital applications. PaaS providers generally specialize in building certain types of applications, like eCommerce applications. PaaS providers offer dedicated or virtualized hardware, and some hide the infrastructure layer from the customer for ease of use. Though PaaS requires a high degree of technical proficiency, PaaS providers often include features that make it easier for non-technical clients to create digital applications and experiences.

PaaS is a good fit for organizations if you don’t have the level of expertise in the infrastructure needed for IaaS but still want your development teams to deploy their applications and websites themselves.

Examples,
  • Google App Engine
  • OutSystems
  • Heroku

PaaS Best Use Case

PaaS is best suited to a team of developers who want the freedom to build their own applications without having to worry about underlying tasks like runtime and traffic load management.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Software-as-a-service basically handles all the technical stuff while at the same time providing an application (or a suite of applications) that the client or customer can use to launch projects immediately — or at least, faster than they would do with an IaaS or PaaS solution, both of which require more technical input from the client or customer. Coincidentally most SaaS vendors use IaaS or PaaS Solutions to support their suite of applications, handling the technical elements so their customers don’t have to.

SaaS is the least hands-on of the three cloud computing solutions and is good if you don’t have developer resources but need to provide capabilities to end users. You won’t have visibility or control of your infrastructure and are restricted by the capabilities and configuration of the software tools. This can be restrictive when you want to integrate with other systems you may own and run, but does allow you to get up and running quickly.

SaaS providers allow customers to take advantage of the features of the software they provide without the customer having to purchase infrastructure or use IaaS or PaaS solutions.

SaaS services are generally chosen based on the features and quality of the software. Customers choosing server software on IaaS and PaaS providers generally do so over SaaS because of the need for high levels of customization to the core software or aggressive security requirements.

Examples,

  • Google G Suite
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Mailchimp

SaaS Best Use Case

SaaS solutions are the most popular of the three because they cater for non-technical companies and startups who wish to deploy their websites and applications rapidly, while the vendor takes care of hosting, security, server uptime and pretty much everything else on the technical side. With a SaaS solution, you can launch and scale faster and test the market with pre-built solutions. SaaS benefits really come into their own when you want to do multiple instances of a system.”

Which Cloud Architecture is For You?

Taking into account the definitions and explanations given above, it’s clear to see the differences between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. In infrastructure-as-a-service, you get what the name implies, just the infrastructure. You’ll then need to ask your technical team with building on top of that infrastructure, building applications and digital experiences largely from scratch. With platform-as-a-service, you get some additional building blocks on top of the infrastructure, giving developers the tools they need to build and innovate, without spoon-feeding them applications that they can launch with immediately. Finally, the software-as-a-service solution gives the client or customer direct access to pre-build applications and solutions which they can use to rapidly deploy sites and apps. The technicalities are taken care of, and there isn’t the need — nor, in most cases, the possibility — for developers to delve into the code and customize the solution.

Thus, the type of cloud architecture you should choose depends on the plan, team and timeline you have. If your product or service is too unique and complex for pre-built applications to support, and you have a technical team ready to build from scratch, then IaaS or perhaps PaaS is the solution. If, however, you want to launch a string of web publications or eCommerce websites, both of which are relatively straightforward projects, then a SaaS solution would probably be best suited.

Cloud Computing: Exploring the strategic benefits of a move of Health Care Enterprises to the cloud

Healthcare organizations traditionally are cautious in their approach to new technologies. With good reason, of course. Healthcare IT supports a mission that leaves no room for error. And as cloud computing has emerged in recent years as a cost-effective alternative to expensive data warehouses, healthcare was not an early adopter.

But recent research shows that an increasing number of hospitals and private practices are migrating databases, applications, and services (such as disaster recovery) to the cloud, with no slowdown in sight.

In a HIMSS Analytics survey of healthcare IT executives taken in January 2017, 65 percent of respondents said their healthcare organizations currently utilize the cloud or cloud services. “Much of the usage leans toward clinical application and data hosting, data recovery and backup, and the hosting of operational applications,” HIMSS Analytics reported.

 

The vast majority of healthcare providers now using the cloud are deploying software as a service (SaaS) in which a service provider hosts and maintains applications.

Nearly nine in 10 of these respondents (88 percent) said their organizations are using a SaaS model, up from 67 percent in a HIMSS cloud survey from 2014. And more than half of this year’s cloud users (54 percent) are deploying an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud model, using virtualized resources to gain flexibility and scalability.

Meanwhile, a 2016 industry forecast by MarketsandMarkets estimated the healthcare cloud computing market would nearly triple to $9.48 billion in 2020 from $3.73 billion in 2015, indicating that provider organizations will continue to invest heavily in cloud computing technology and services.

Healthcare providers are eager to spend money on cloud computing for good reason: Cloud-based IT services offer a number of clear and significant benefits.

Among them are:

  • Easier access to data. Cloud-based patient medical and billing data are far more accessible to authorized users than data stored locally, enabling interoperability and collaboration among clinicians in different locations. As healthcare systems expand to new physical locations, cloud access is more convenient to support.
  • Reduced costs.  By migrating IT platforms and services to the cloud, healthcare organizations can avoid capital expenditures to replace aging infrastructure equipment. Outsourcing services to the cloud also allow providers to save money on IT staff.
  • Improved backup and disaster recovery.  The hurricanes that devastated the Gulf Coast, Florida and Puerto Rico in August and September 2017 are a reminder that natural disasters can inflict tremendous damage on hospital IT infrastructures. Remote cloud deployments can be used to back up hospital data and systems in the event of an outage or cyber attack.
  • Greater storage capacity.  One of the most obvious advantages of cloud computing is scalability; providers with limited on-premises data centers can scale their storage capacity as needed in the cloud.
  • Big data and analytics.  The cloud’s scalability also offers healthcare providers an ideal platform for storing and analyzing big data, allowing for advances in medical research and precision medicine.

While all of the benefits of cloud computing listed above are important to healthcare providers, it is absolutely critical that clinicians have access to electronic health records (EHRs) in order to effectively treat patients. A cloud-based EHR can deliver relevant information about a patient’s medical history, prescribed medications, allergies, and other factors to clinicians at the point of care, increasing the odds of a successful outcome.

But are cloud-computing platforms fast enough to meet the often real-time needs of EHRs? The answer is a conditional “yes.” The conditions include the physical distance between the cloud data center from the provider, the size of the workload, and available network bandwidth.

“The clinical apps that can work well in the cloud are typically those that are not transferring large files or data streams,” says Susan Snedaker, director of IT Infrastructure & Operations at Tucson Medical Center. “If you’re going to host a data-intensive clinical application in the cloud, you should be sure you have the right connectivity solution in place.”

Migrating an EHR to the cloud, however, is no plug-and-play procedure; it requires a strategy based on a specific provider’s needs, meticulous planning, and proper training. And while there’s no single universal cloud migration strategy for EHRs, many healthcare IT managers are making the move one step at a time, evaluating the success of each migrated application before preparing the next move. Such an incremental approach helps provider IT professionals and clinicians to learn and make adjustments along the way, thus minimizing the chances of major migration-related problems such as outages and lost data.

Apache Cassandra

Cassandra is a distributed database management system designed for handling a high volume of structured data across commodity servers. It provides high availability with no single point of failure.

Important points 

Apache Cassandra is an open source, distributed and decentralized/distributed storage system.
It is a column-oriented database.
Cassandra was developed at Facebook for inbox search.

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