IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) are similar. As is often the case in life, however, the details create important differences between them. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to IaaS vs PaaS.
IaaS is a way of delivering virtualized computing resources over a network, usually the internet. In short, the vendor manages all the IT resources you would have found in on-site infrastructure. They will then package access to this in the form of virtual machines.
These virtual machines can have default specifications or be configured by the clients. Many IaaS vendors offer both options. It’s also quite common for them to offer default packages that the clients can then upgrade.
Clients access these virtual machines and use them in the same way as they would have used the equivalent physical machines.
PaaS can be viewed as an extension of IaaS. In fact, IaaS is usually the foundation layer of PaaS. Technically, PaaS can be delivered using on-premises or hybrid infrastructure. This is, however, very much the exception rather than the rule.
Middleware, as its name suggests, is a set of tools that can be used to integrate diverse operating systems and user applications. Technically, it is optional. In reality, it would be highly unusual to see a PaaS system that didn’t offer it.
At a high level, you should probably choose IaaS if your priority is to maximize the level of control you have over the resources you use. If, however, your priority is to maximize convenience for your users, then you should probably use PaaS.
Here is a more in-depth guide to the key features of IaaS vs PaaS and how they compare and differ.
A significant part of the appeal of cloud-based services in general is that they are highly scalable. This holds true for both IaaS and PaaS. Whether they are equally scalable probably depends on how you view the situation.
You could argue that IaaS is more scalable than PaaS because you are less likely to bump into issues related to limitations on the provider’s side. You could also argue that PaaS is more scalable than IaaS because scaling it requires less thought on the part of the user.
On the other hand, you could equally argue that, as cloud-based solutions, both options are equally scalable. It all depends on your point of view.
Both IaaS and PaaS can be billed as committed tariffs or on a pure pay-as-you-go basis. Many providers of both IaaS and PaaS have hybrid billing options. In other words, they charge a fixed price for core services but allow ad-hoc billing for any add-on services the client may wish to use.
Using IaaS is like buying ready-made ingredients for a meal but putting them together yourself. Most of the hard work has already been done. All you have to do is put everything together to suit your own taste. Using PaaS is like buying a ready meal. There’s not a lot you can do to customize it. There is, however, even less work involved in preparing it.
With IaaS you have direct control over your own data. This means that you are responsible for securing it. This includes backing it up and making sure that you can restore it from that backup. With PaaS, the provider secures the data for you.
On the plus side, using IaaS can make it possible for clients to demonstrate compliance with data-security programs (e.g. HIPAA) even if the provider doesn’t explicitly support them. With PaaS, the client would need to be sure that the provider supported any relevant compliance programs.
With IaaS, developers are effectively creating apps that can run on any machine (virtual or physical) with the given set of specifications. With PaaS, apps are effectively locked to the underlying infrastructure. This means that if that infrastructure is put out of action for any reason, the apps are also put out of action.
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