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IaaS vs PaaS June 10, 2010

Posted by spdguru in Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service.
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I understand that this particular discussion has been brought up many times among the technorati. It is however important in shaping future Cloud centric applications. One of the parts of the Cloud Computing definition by NIST is the SPI (SaaS/PaaS/IaaS) model, which is definitely a good start. It helps us understand the distinction between various Cloud offers. In very broad terms, when a provider allows a user to control the operating system of the hardware the offering is Infrastructure as a Service. An example of this is Amazon’s EC2 offering. When a user (application developer) has no control on the Operating System (OS) but does have control on the complete application software, and uses application development services like those from the App Engine from Google, the cloud offering is a Platform as a Service. Finally, if the end user has no control on the Application software, except some configuration, like in the case of Salesforce.com, the offering is classified as Software as a Service (SaaS).

The line between IaaS and PaaS is very gray. Amazon’s offerings are deemed to be IaaS and this is probably true in the case of EC2. But Amazon also offers database services (SimpleDB & RDS) and a billing service (DevPay)which are clearly beyond IaaS. Even the S3 storage service provides read write capabilities, which are generally the domain of an OS. The PaaS definition should be broader than the ability to develop an application and physically run on the platform. The Apple App Store surely is a market place, which allows developers to showcase applications and monetize them. The App Store should be a platform too, since it plays a very important role in the lifecycle of an iPhone or iPad application. It is not a stretch to envision the emergence of specialized platforms targeted for industry specific applications. For instance, Authorize.net provides a set of services for credit card payments accessed over the Internet or “in the Cloud”.

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