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IaaS, Say What? - Infrastructure as a Service Explained for the Non-Geek


What is IaaS? Infrastructure as a Service, is an instant network environment that can be created in a few minutes. The model of IaaS is different from the old model of owning the entire equipment stack. Peek inside any IT closet and you should see a bunch of blinking lights attached to servers, switching equipment, and lots of colorful cable going everywhere. IaaS can provide the same fundamental setup, but in a warehouse somewhere else. IaaS provides AC to keep things cool, physical security (no unwanted visitors), and backup generators to power everything when disaster strikes.

Benefits to Infrastructure as a Service are:

  • Cost - It is usually much cheaper in an IaaS agreement then trying to purchase physical space, A/C, security, and hardware for an on premise solution. The cost is absorbed by the provider as there is economy of scale. The real savings, however, come from IaaS “pay for what you use” billing. For a normal on premise network, it is necessary to purchase hardware that can handle peak utilization. With IaaS it is advised to purchase minimal hardware requirements to run the required services. IaaS uses auto-scaling techniques to increase and decrease running hardware as needed, so you only pay for increased utilization when needed. The idea is to scale out instead of up (scaling out would add more CPU resources to a single server, scaling up would add more servers to share the load and then decrease the number of running servers when not needed).
  • Continuity and Disaster Recovery - IaaS solutions, when designed correctly, provide highly available and durable environments. The idea behind IaaS is network uptime. IaaS also allows for “Infrastructure as Code”, which is a predefined template of your entire environment that can be quickly and easily deployed or replicated in another region if needed.
  • Rapid Deployment - In a typical server hardware deployment, the hardware systems require a few weeks to arrive on site, after which it could take another few weeks to install and configure all the needed applications required. With the design of IaaS, full network deployments are possible within minutes which help you bring your solutions to production almost instantly.
  • Stability - All hardware failures are the IaaS providers responsibility, which means staff no longer have to manage hardware issues when server or network hardware fail. IaaS providers mitigate downtime for hardware failure using self-replicating solutions. This means if a server fails in area A, it’s instantly moved to area B with minimal interruption in service (usually within seconds).

Hybrid solutions are also available and include moving only the parts of your infrastructure into the cloud that require high availability and durability. Usually this is “mission critical” applications, things that simply can not have downtime.

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