By Kevin Mahoney
Three different types of cloud service models exist: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Notice the key word here is service. Perhaps you’ve also heard of several other services that are available, such as desktop as a service, IT as a service, storage as a service, network as a service, and monitoring as a service. It gets confusing.
The key to remember here is that, regardless of the function of the service, all of these services revolve around abstracting the physical resources and creating or presenting these resources as services for end users. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) considers IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS to be the three main categories. Regardless of how many different services are available, providers are no longer concerned with specific products, platforms, and physical boxes. Instead, providers are supplying a wealth of great services.
Additionally, the cost model is changing. While a fixed cost is still an option, the more popular methods include an allocation-based and a utilization-based approach. The allocation-based approach is simply paying for the hardware configuration used. For example, the number of servers, the number of CPUs in the servers, and the amount of RAM in each server all have associated costs. Utilization-based refers more to the OneDrive and Dropbox examples, with the cost dependent on how much disk space we purchase or utilize.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): In this scenario the vendor provides all the infrastructure items, including the networking, storage, servers, and virtualization. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a great example of IaaS. You simply have AWS provision your order based on your storage, servers, virtualization, and security needs. You essentially end up with a data center as a service, which is very powerful. This is such a popular cloud service, in fact, that most people probably think of IaaS when they think about the cloud.
Platform as a Service (PaaS): Developers might not want to spend time setting up, configuring, and changing their environments for development and testing. With platform as a service, the cloud provider handles the hardware layer as well as the software layer. The cloud provider takes care of the operating system, middleware, and runtime – everything an application requires to function. In this model, all the scaling, maintenance, and redundancy are fully managed in the cloud, allowing developers to focus on their applications. Microsoft’s Azure environment and Google’s App Engine are popular examples of these types of attractive options, especially for organizations with smaller teams and budgets that don’t include the management and support of their own infrastructure.
Software as a Service (SaaS): With software as a service (SaaS), the cloud provider delivers the entire infrastructure over a network or the Internet. The user is not responsible for setting up anything. The user can access these resources with any device from anywhere that’s convenient. One example is Google’s Gmail; users access Google’s email infrastructure, off-loading all IT responsibility to the cloud provider. Other examples include Citrix’s GoToMeeting, Microsoft’s Office 365, Cisco’s WebX, and Google Docs. There are literally hundreds of similar offerings. This model is so popular that people often think this is the cloud.
It is important to mention that you can surrender control to the cloud in varying degrees and multiple ways. Consider Microsoft Office: Some programs can be set up as true SaaS programs, or IT can introduce some controls, which moves this model toward more of a platform or infrastructure as a service model.
The bottom line here is that no matter what acronym we hear, we are talking about powerful, scalable services offered by today’s cloud providers that are based on these fantastic cloud models.
Each level of service – IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS – places more control in the hands of the cloud provider. IaaS represents the least amount of control from the provider, PaaS places more control with the provider, and SaaS enables full control through the provider. Pick the option that works best for your call center.
Kevin Mahoney is a hospital and healthcare-related account advocate and sales engineer at Amtelco, a manufacturer and supplier of call center solutions located in McFarland, Wisconsin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.