Over the past decade, the rise of cloud computing has revolutionized how companies manage their data and IT assets, develop new web applications and build profitable customer relationships. In fact, a recent forecast from Gartner declared that cloud adoption has finally become mainstream, with the as-a-service market projected to grow 17% in 2020, totaling $266.4 billion worldwide. One reason for this rapid expansion is that many organizations are looking to switch to scalable, subscription-based software models. But what specific as-a-service examples are modern businesses most excited about, and which cloud-service companies offer the best functionality?
Breaking Down the Cloud Services Market
The popularity of cloud-based services is growing rapidly — one survey from McAfee found that 87% of polled enterprises experience significant “business acceleration” as a direct result of their cloud usage. While many business leaders approach cloud integration holistically, the market is actually broken up into several different types of services, each with their own inherent benefits. Currently, the three most popular “as-a-service” products are SaaS, IaaS and PaaS.
SaaS: Software as a Service
Software as a service (SaaS) is a method of software delivery that allows users to access data and applications over the internet, usually through a web browser. Unlike traditional software, all hosting and maintenance activities for servers and databases are handled by the cloud vendor, not the organization itself. Productivity and collaboration apps like Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s G Suite are great examples — these SaaS services do not require companies to host or store any data onsite. More specifically, SaaS applications differ from on-premises software and data storage in two key areas:
- Hardware requirements: SaaS deployments do not require organizations to purchase extensive hardware, allowing them to cut down on IT expenses without impacting performance. Since most essential management activities are handled in the cloud, companies can also reduce the burden placed on their in-house IT staff.
- Payment models: Traditional, on-premise software is often purchased upfront through a series of licenses that must be renewed over time. Most SaaS applications are built on a pay-as-you-go subscription model, which empowers companies to adjust their utilization on demand.
One of the major benefits of SaaS is that all applications are device-agnostic — with laptops, tablets and mobile devices being the most popular — meaning users can access cloud services from anywhere that has a stable internet connection. This will grow increasingly important as more companies move toward remote work environments. Research from Global Workplace Analytics found that 5 million employees, or 3.6% of the U.S. workforce, currently works from home at least half the time or more. Without a SaaS solution in place, these workers would need to constantly download new software updates and manage licenses for each of their devices.
IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service
Infrastructure as a service is one of the main pillars of cloud computing and plays a key role in how businesses manage their IT assets and data. Under an IaaS model, cloud providers host the infrastructural components that make up traditional on-premises data centers, including servers, storage and networking hardware. This eliminates the need for companies to build and manage their own physical data stores, while also providing a variety of supplemental services, such as:
- Advanced monitoring, log access and cybersecurity
- Load balancing and clustering
- Data backup, replication and recovery
Together, these IaaS-based services enable organizations to achieve higher levels of automation and orchestration, according to TechTarget, especially for important IT management tasks. Not only can companies move physical virtual machines to the cloud without major code changes, IaaS also enables them to implement custom policies that can help maintain peak availability and performance. Using an IaaS platform, businesses can create and manage cloud-based virtual machines, install operating systems and middleware, optimize workloads and even balance network traffic.
PaaS: Platform as a Service
Platform as a service offers companies the cloud-based resources and development frameworks they need to create and manage their own custom applications with ease. In most cases, all servers, storage and networking are managed by a third-party cloud provider, while in-house developers control the applications themselves. Unlike other cloud computing examples, PaaS services are specifically designed for software creation and optimization. One of the main benefits is that software developers don’t need to write code for different operating systems or build on-premise infrastructure to house application data. PaaS also delivers other key services, including:
- Application hosting, testing and deployment
- Web service and database integration
- Information security
Companies that leverage PaaS can move brownfield applications to a cloud-based format with only minor code changes, or completely rebuild their custom software from the ground up. Generally speaking, users are only charged for the computing, storage and networking resources they actually consume, rather than paying for the platform up front.
Other popular as-a-service examples
Alongside SaaS, IaaS and PaaS, cloud providers also offer a variety of other pay-as-you-go services that businesses may benefit from. Each third-party vendor has its own unique set of offerings, so it’s important to carefully research available options before making the switch from on-premise software and infrastructure.
- Function as a service (FaaS): This type of cloud computing service allows organizations to execute code in response to events without having to build complex microservices applications. Under this framework all physical hardware, VM operating systems and web server management is handled automatically by the cloud vendor. This enables IT professionals to focus only on the application code and the individual functions they’re working on.
- Containers as a service (CaaS): While newer on the cloud computing scene, CaaS services are quickly becoming popular with organizations that use container-based virtualization. CaaS offers a robust framework for deploying and managing containers, applications and clusters without the need for on-premises infrastructure.
Competition in the cloud computing market is fierce, and new SaaS applications are released on what feels like a monthly basis. To get the most out of their cloud adoption, companies must think carefully about which SaaS vendors offer the exact capabilities they need to step into the future of business.
Top 3 As-A-Service Companies to Look out For
Although new as-a-service startups are constantly being launched, the cloud computing market has largely been dominated by three technology firms: Microsoft, Amazon and Google. Using their immense resources, these tech giants have been able to establish themselves as leaders in cloud-based services and secure a large portion of the total market share. One reason for this success is that these large tech firms already have a healthy base of on-premise software customers that are increasingly making the switch to cloud adoption. Of course, transitioning to a public or hybrid cloud framework comes with a wide array of technical and operational challenges.
If your company is hoping to join the as-a-service movement, the experts at ACTS can help you build a streamlined migration plan for Microsoft Azure that can reduce unplanned downtime and maximize user adoption. To learn more, explore our solutions page or contact an ACTS representative today.