What Is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

What Is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

What Is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

In an episode of the popular sitcom, Silicon Valley, the protagonists struggled to manage the server in their “start-up incubator” (aka their garage) due to dramatic increases in traffic.

If you’ve worked in the IT space long enough, you can probably recall your own experiences managing inflexible environments with limited resources. Fortunately, this is largely an issue of the past, thanks to the rise of infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

What Is Infrastructure as a Service?

IaaS is a cloud computing model in which storage, compute, and networking resources are available on demand over the internet through an IaaS provider. IaaS allows an organization to outsource its infrastructure needs to the IaaS provider’s data center. 

In the early days of the internet, companies had to rely on their own in-house infrastructure to bring their services online. Today, IaaS providers make it possible for businesses to launch their digital presence in a matter of minutes—thanks to the large, global data centers they maintain. Even large companies like Netflix rely on IaaS providers for their digital infrastructures.

The three major components an IaaS environment provides are the:

  • Physical building for infrastructure
  • Physical servers, which may be divided into storage space and processing power
  • Network firewalls and security

Why Use IaaS?

The convenience of not having to set up physical infrastructures is an obvious advantage, but there are many other benefits to consider.

Capital Requirements

Setting up entire infrastructures takes considerable effort and capital. You’ll need to purchase, set up, and maintain devices and equipment. You’ll also incur facilities expenses to house and secure the equipment.

IaaS providers take care of these expenses for you, so you’ll only pay for the resources you consume. It’s likely to be a fraction of the cost of setting up an entire network infrastructure yourself. As a result, with IaaS, you can launch digital services with minimal CAPEX requirements. Some IaaS companies even offer a free tier of service. You’ll only pay if you use resources above and beyond the plan’s limits.

Scalability

Scalability is a significant advantage of IaaS. This is particularly important for start-ups since they may not be able to predict when their services will reach mass adoption level. If a start-up has to build its own infrastructure, it will underutilize it at first. If the start-up gets a sudden surge in traffic (after getting a mention from an influencer, for example), its servers likely won’t be able to handle it.

To increase capacity, the start-up will have to expand its infrastructure. That takes time, capital, and IT resources—things most businesses, especially start-ups, are short on.

With IaaS, on the other hand, you can scale services instantly. You can set up applications on the IaaS so resources scale automatically based on demand. When demand wanes, resources will scale down accordingly. This not only ensures that your customers will always be served but also that you only pay for the resources that are consumed.

Security

There’s a misconception that utilizing infrastructure provided by a vendor is inherently insecure. That’s not the case. In fact, given the risks associated with hosting other companies’ data, IaaS providers have the best cybersecurity protocols and professionals in place to monitor the digital infrastructure. It would be too expensive for an individual company to try to provide the same level of security that a reputable IaaS provider offers.

Because IaaS providers’ security costs are split across their customer base, individual companies incur only a tiny fraction of the total costs. However, one thing to keep in mind is that IaaS providers are only responsible for the security of the infrastructure. You’ll still be the custodian of security for your applications and platforms.

Backup and Recovery

Most IaaS providers offer the option to regularly back up your data and other settings. They hold your backups at different locations to spread out risk. You can then recover from any of the images that are stored, increasing the overall reliability of the service. Even in the worst-case scenario, your data can be recovered from the last backup.

Geographic Spread

Internet services are faster when they run on servers closer to users. This is especially true for trading and gaming applications, which require low latency. 

With IaaS, you can deliver your application from different locations to different users via the provider’s network of servers. Many providers offer worldwide geographic coverage. This enables you to select servers for your applications, based on the location of your customer base.

Focus

Because IaaS providers are responsible for building and maintaining their own infrastructure, you can redirect your focus (and the focus of your IT team) to higher-priority initiatives. IaaS providers will focus on what they do best: delivering robust infrastructure solutions. You can focus on what you do best: developing and delivering exceptional solutions.

How Does IaaS Work?

At a high level, IaaS service providers offer the hardware and network security needed for digital infrastructure. You can then implement the platform of your choice to build your application. You can integrate platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solutions for your platform needs or software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications for any software functionalities you require. 

You can communicate directly with the infrastructure over the internet through the application programming interface (API) provided by your IaaS partner. You can use this protocol to access and harness the storage and processing power at the IaaS servers. You’ll also have the ability to programmatically deploy resources, based on demand or other parameters you specify. Many providers offer a graphical user interface (GUI) you can use to modify server parameters.

Pure Storage for IaaS

IaaS providers must be able to provide reliable, fast, and efficient service to their customers. This includes everything from delivering on storage requirements to ensuring network infrastructure security.

FlashStack® is a software-defined hybrid-cloud infrastructure solution built in collaboration with Cisco, a network infrastructure pioneer. For more on FlashStack’s industry-leading unified fast file and object (UFFO) infrastructure, check out our solution brief or contact Pure for personalized guidance.

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