Alphabet soup

Tech jargon is like alphabet soup with acronyms such as NFV, CPU and GUI floating around. With respect to the cloud services industry, their are three acronyms that typically come to mind: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). When a business is choosing a cloud service, it is important to know the difference between these categories, each of which comes with various capabilities. The following, therefore, is a breakdown of how SaaS, PaaS and IaaS differ.


Saas is the most common type of cloud service with the greatest level of abstraction. It enables users to connect to and use cloud-based apps over the web. Under the SaaS model, software deployment and management tasks are assigned to third-party services. The majority of SaaS apps can run from a web browser without requiring downloads or installations; although, plugins might be needed. Common SaaS apps for companies include Salesforce, Google Apps, Gmail, Office365 and Dropbox.

SaaS apps are typically provided on a subscription basis. This usually minimizes costs attached to software management by eliminating the need to manually install, manage and upgrade software. It also decreases the cost of licensing software. Using SaaS, enterprises are able to mobilize their workforce since users are able to access SaaS apps from web-connected computers or devices.


PaaS operates at a lower level of abstract in comparison to SaaS, and usually comes with a platform that software can be created and launched on top off. It provides software developers with a self-service portal for provisioning computer infrastructure. Users can create apps through software components that are baked into the PaaS.

One of the benefits of this model is all apps built using PaaS include characteristics of the cloud, such as scalability, availability and multi-tenancy. In addition, it is quicker and cheapens the process of creating, testing and launching apps. Moreover, PaaS decreases the amount of coding required, automates company policy and aids the migration of apps to hybrid clouds. With PaaS, users can better manage servers, storage, networking and operating systems in general.


IaaS is the most agile cloud cloud computing model, which enables the automated deployment of compute, storage, networking and networking services. Under the IaaS model, users can build a virtual data center in the cloud equipped with as many resource capabilities found in traditional data centers. Moreover, users can access virtual machines on other people’s servers instead of being limited to their own. Rather than having to invest in hardware from the get go, users are able to invest in IaaS based on consumption like a utility bill. There are a host of service providers that offer IaaS, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Navisite, exoscale and Softlayer, to name just a few.

What makes IaaS unique is users can access over 20 cloud providers through a single application program interface (API), allowing them to compare and contrast the cost and performance of various providers. This helps users develop and deploy apps without getting stuck in vendor lock-in using an individual platform.

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