There are three main types of infrastructure as a service. These are compute, storage, and network. Here is a quick guide to each of these types of infrastructure as a service and what they mean in practice.
Before going into details of the types of infrastructure as a service, it is worth taking a quick look at why it is important to understand them. The main reason is that IaaS has very similar management requirements to traditional on-premises infrastructure.
In other words, it is the client’s responsibility to know what they want. The client provides a specification to the IaaS vendor and the IaaS vendor delivers what the client requires. IaaS vendors do not usually provide consultancy on this by default. If consultancy is available, it will usually be as a chargeable service.
The three main types of infrastructure as a service
With that said, here is a simple guide to the three main types of infrastructure as a service.
In practical terms, “compute” translates as servers, albeit virtual ones. The client specifies these servers in much the same way as they would specify real ones. In particular, the client is usually able to specify the CPU, level of RAM and amount of storage. They may be able to go into more detail. For example, they may be able to specify the graphics card.
The big difference between compute in IaaS and real-world servers is that compute in IaaS can be on whatever scale the client wants. For example, if a client just needs a tiny server to run a lightweight application, they can easily set one up. By contrast, if the client needs serious compute power to handle significant tasks, this is easy to set up too.
Just as importantly, with IaaS, servers are easy to scale up, or down, or even across. In fact, you can often do this in real-time just by making some adjustments on a console. This level of flexibility just cannot be matched by traditional infrastructure (or colocation).
At a high level this is self-explanatory. There is, however, an extra level of detail to it. With IaaS, storage typically comes in three main forms. These are block storage, file storage, and object storage.
Block storage is exactly what the name suggests. The IaaS vendor provides a traditional block storage device. This is attached to your virtual machine through the network. Block storage is the fastest type of storage currently available in the IaaS environment. Unfortunately, it is also the least user-friendly. With that said, it can be made less cumbersome by using a file system.
File storage is also essentially what its name suggests. It works in pretty much exactly the same way as regular file storage in any other environment. Object storage also saves data as a single entity but it adds metadata including an identifier.
The identifier works in much the same way as hashtags on the internet. It means that all data relating to a specific object can be easily collated even if it’s spread across the storage media.
Object storage isn’t nearly as fast as block storage. On the other hand, it’s more economical and simpler to use. This is why object storage tends to be the storage method of choice in most IaaS implementations.
The network function of IaaS works almost identically to real-world networking. One key point to note is that, just like with real-world networking, clients need to match their bandwidth to their traffic.
Having covered the three main types of infrastructure as a service, it’s worth covering the reasons for choosing IaaS over both on-premises infrastructure and colocation.
There’s no need to purchase physical equipment or organize IT staff to manage it. That means there’s no need for capital expenditure. You just choose your IaaS vendor and your specifications and get started.
One of the major selling points of cloud services in general is that your costs reflect your usage. On the one hand, this does mean that if you scale up your usage you pay higher prices. On the other hand, it also means that if you scale down your usage, you pay lower prices.
If a business is scaling up its usage, that means it has work that requires the extra infrastructure. This work should generate the income needed to pay for it. Also, many IaaS vendors have pricing models that support volume discounts. This can make them even more attractive.
IaaS doesn’t eliminate the need for management oversight. It does, however, vastly reduce it. It therefore frees up valuable time for other purposes.
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