So, what is cloud?
Cloud computing has become the best way to deliver enterprise applications and the solution of choice for companies that want to grow their infrastructure or try out new things.
Cloud computing is an abstraction of compute, storage, and network infrastructure that is put together as a platform on which applications and systems can be set up quickly and scaled on the fly.
Self-service is a key part of cloud computing. Users just have to fill out a web form and they’re ready to go.
The vast majority of cloud customers use public cloud computing services over the internet.
These services are hosted by cloud providers in large, remote data centers. SaaS (software as a service) is the most common type of cloud computing.
It sends pre-built applications to the browsers of customers who pay per seat or by usage.
Popular apps like Salesforce, Google Docs, and Microsoft Teams are all examples of SaaS. IaaS (infrastructure as a service) comes next.
It offers a large, virtualized compute, storage, and network infrastructure on which customers can build their own apps, often with the help of API-accessible services from the provider.
People usually mean AWS (Amazon Web Services), Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure when they say “the cloud” in a casual way.
All three have grown into huge ecosystems of services that go far beyond infrastructure.
These services include developer tools, serverless computing, machine learning services and APIs, data warehouses, and thousands of others.
Flexibility is a key benefit of both SaaS and IaaS.
Customers get new features almost instantly without having to spend money on new hardware or software.
They can also instantly increase or decrease the number of resources they use, depending on what they need.
In 2011, three “service models” for the cloud were introduced: SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS (platform as a service).
PaaS is a controlled environment where customers can build and run applications.
These three categories have mostly stood the test of time, though most PaaS solutions now offer their services as parts of IaaS ecosystems instead of as their own clouds.
Since NIST’s three-fold definition, two changes in evolution have stood out.
One is the long and growing number of subcategories within SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS, some of which blur the lines between categories.
The other is the rapid growth of cloud services that can be accessed through APIs, especially in IaaS ecosystems.
The cloud has become a hotbed of innovation where many new technologies first appear as services.
This is a big draw for business customers who know that adopting new technologies early could give them a competitive edge.
SaaS – Software as a Service
This type of cloud computing gives users access to applications through the internet, usually through a browser.
Today, most software companies offer their products through SaaS, if not only then at least as an option.
Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365 are two of the most popular SaaS business apps.
Most enterprise apps, like the big ERP suites from Oracle and SAP, come in both SaaS and on-prem versions.
Most SaaS applications come with a lot of configuration options and a development environment that lets customers write their own code to make changes and add new features.
They also make it possible to connect data to on-premise applications.
IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
IaaS cloud providers offer virtualized computing, storage, and networking over the internet, and you only pay for what you use.
Think of it as a data center that is remotely managed by someone else, but with a software layer that virtualizes all of the resources and makes it easy for customers to use them.
But that’s not all there is to know. The services that the biggest public IaaS providers offer are mind-boggling: highly scalable databases, virtual private networks, analytics for big data, developer tools, machine learning, application monitoring, and so on.
Amazon Web Services was the first IaaS provider and is still the best. It is followed by Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Alibaba Cloud, and IBM Cloud.
PaaS – Platform as a Service
PaaS is a set of services and workflows designed for developers.
They can use shared tools, processes, and APIs to speed up the process of making, testing, and deploying apps.
Public cloud PaaS services like Salesforce’s Heroku and Salesforce Platform (formerly Force.com) are popular.
Cloud Foundry and Red Hat’s OpenShift can be used on-premises or through the major public clouds.
For businesses, PaaS can make sure that developers have easy access to resources, follow certain processes.
Only use a certain set of services, while operators take care of the infrastructure underneath.
In other articles, we’ll talk in more depth about the other cloud services.