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Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the practice of delivering a full compute stack — including servers, storage, networking and operating software — as an abstract, virtualized construct.
Like other service-based offerings (Software as a Service, Platform as a Service), IaaS allows users to consume only what they need while offloading complex and expensive management tasks to their provider.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is also known as hardware as a service (HaaS).
IaaS grew out of the broader conversion from traditional hardware-oriented data centers to virtualized and cloud-based infrastructure. By removing the fixed relationship between hardware and operating software and middleware, organizations found that they could scale data environments quickly and easily to meet workload demands.
From there, it was just a small step to begin purchasing infrastructure on a service model to cut costs and deliver the kind of flexibility needed to accommodate the growing demand for digital services.
Major players in the IaaS industry include Microsoft Azure and AWS. While the typical consumption model for IaaS is to acquire services from a third-party provider, many large enterprises are adapting it for their own internal, private clouds. IaaS, after all, is built on virtual pools of resources which ideally are parcelled out on-demand and then returned to the pool when no longer needed.
Rather than providing discrete server, storage and networking resources in this way, internal IaaS models deliver them in an integrated fashion to avoid bottlenecks and conflicts.
In this way, the enterprise is able to streamline its actual hardware infrastructure while still providing the needed resources to serve the business model.
The on-demand service model makes it easy to migrate workloads from one IaaS instance to another, ensuring that resources are always there when you need them;
IaaS providers maintain state-of-the-art security postures as core elements of their business models;
One of the greatest advantages of IaaS is the ability to scale computing resources on the fly, according to current need.
Test, dev and operations teams gain immediate access to infrastructure to greatly speed up development and support operations;
By removing IT as a cost center in the enterprise, organizations can devote more time and energy to their core business models.
Just as infrastructure comes in many forms and serves many different functions, so does IaaS. A general-purpose environment supporting production workloads and back-office operations will be optimized for live application support, rapid access and active databases.
However, some implementations are built for replication and disaster recovery. In these cases, support for leading site recovery solutions is paramount. Still other services cater to test and development workloads, stressing a low-cost, pay-per-use structure.
While IaaS generally provides a better pricing model than internal infrastructure, costs can become unmanageable as scale increases. For this reason, many organizations utilize third-party IaaS for temporary, specialized workloads while developing their own cloud infrastructure as their data requirements mount.
As well, start-ups often find IaaS a cheap and easy way to launch their businesses, and then convert to private clouds — usually built on modular, composable infrastructure — for their more critical workloads.