Cloud as a Service (CaaS) is the utilization of cloud computing services consumed and paid for on a subscription or pay-per-use basis. Although the term usually refers to public cloud computing services such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) it can also refer to modernizing an organization’s IT s capabilities to adopt those cloud-like service delivery methodologies on-premises.
By creating an abstraction layer between highly automated and standardized service consumption, and those in the organization responsible for managing the underlying infrastructure, Cloud-as-a-Service accelerates the implementation of new applications, onboarding of new employees, and scaling to meet increased demand.
Cloud-as-Service providers also offer security and storage as services, eliminating the need for organizations to maintain a security operations center or worry about exceeding the capacity of their storage devices. Many organizations have turned to CaaS to both offload IT maintenance and management chores to a cloud provider and to migrate from a capital expense to operational expense model with predictable monthly fees for various IT services provided by cloud vendors. This increases IT efficiency and enables resources to focus on business tasks instead of ‘firefighting’ server, storage, security, and networking issues.
Organizations adopt Cloud-as-a-Service to:
- Standardize and automate service delivery
- Reduce infrastructure, real estate, and energy costs
- Accelerate time to value for new projects
- Modernize applications to achieve better mobility for users
- Instantly scale to meet changing business demands
- Improve overall IT security
- Increase utilization of existing IT infrastructure
- Improve staff productivity
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- Reduced Expenditures. A pay-per-use consumption of services reduces overprovisioning infrastructure resources, and makes better utilization of capital equipment.
- Modernization. CaaS eliminates upgrade and end-of-life worries for organizations, and instead frees up developers to work on cloud-native approaches that can become the underpinnings of a digital transformation and code modernization that enables the use of microservices and APIs to take advantage of a world of cloud services offerings.
- Mobility. The cloud is only as far away as a network connection. CaaS adoption encourages anywhere, anytime, any device access to IT resources, which is beneficial at all times but critically important during a pandemic where employees and customers cannot visit on-premises facilities. Sales and support teams can interact with corporate resources while visiting with clients to ensure information is at the fingertips of those who need it.
- On-Demand Scalability. Where IT might have to wait weeks or months to procure servers for new projects or support growth, CaaS enables scalability of applications, storage, and bandwidth as needed virtually instantaneously. New users can be onboarded in seconds, and new instances of applications can be provisioned in the cloud in minutes.
- High Availability and Disaster recovery. Cloud services began with backup and recovery, and cloud providers can provide backup operations in multiple zones to ensure that a disaster in one location does not impact business operations for their clients. CaaS can mean automatic failover and seamless transition foe employees and customers when and if failover is required.
The primary benefit of CaaS is cost savings, as organizations can tailor monthly expenditures to meet exact needs and no longer need to over-purchase infrastructure to handle unforeseen spikes in volume other demands. Here is a list of many reasons why organizations utilize cloud services.
- Self-service on-demand. Organizations can consume services as needed virtually instantly and stop consumption when no longer needed
- Resilience. Redundancy of cloud providers can increase uptime for every application, and utilizing SaaS services totally eliminates the need for any infrastructure worries
- Competitive Advantage. Having access to cloud-native tools and applications can give a leg up versus competition, and adoption of modern application design can help deliver compelling applications and user experience
- Time to Value. CaaS can speed application development and deployment, and PaaS platforms can provide environments to further simplify development. Entire systems can be provisioned in minutes.
- Multi-tenancy support. Many organizations require multiple separate IT systems, and multi-tenant hyperscale cloud providers excel in establishing an enterprise cloud presence with multiple accounts that share security and network guiderails.
- Enhanced Security. Although organizations must adopt a shared security model, cloud providers offer some of the strongest physical security processes in existence. Many organizations will adopt a zero-trust security stance and encrypt all data and API connections to maximize cloud security.
- Mobility. Cloud services can be accessed from anywhere on virtually any device. All users need is a connection to the internet.
- Scalability. Cloud providers offer a virtually unlimited amount of storage and compute capacity for companies from start-up to multinational enterprise. Organizations need no longer worry about running out of storage or the need to purchase or upgrade another server.
- Predictability. Pay-as-you-go pricing models mean that organizations will know what their cloud expenditures will be on a monthly basis, based on volume and number of users.
- API Access. Modern cloud-native applications are often powered by APIs that are offered by other cloud tenants. Organizations can utilize third party APIs in their cloud applications to take advantage of code unique to their industry or that leverages a unique data set.
Organizations subscribe to cloud services (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) and accounts are provisioned on the cloud provider’s infrastructure to accommodate the organization’s requested services. There are a few general steps that must be taken for each cloud service utilized:
- Ensure the necessary bandwidth is available. Although broadband is nearly ubiquitous and reasonably inexpensive, a cloud service that requires heavy I/O traffic may overwhelm an organization’s existing broadband connectivity. Consider the amount of upload and download traffic to determine projected demand.
- Determine required functionality. Embracing SaaS is as simple as clicking a mouse and entering a credit card number, but IaaS and PaaS require a deeper examination of exactly what cloud resources will be utilized and what if any on-premises workloads will be retained after a cloud migration.
- Choose cloud service providers carefully. Although major cloud providers have similar offerings, some may be better tuned to an organization’s particular needs. For example, where Hyper-V and Windows workloads may be better suited to Azure, Linux workloads on VMware may be better suited to VMC on AWS. Consider the overall fee structure to make a return on investment (ROI) calculation to get buy-in before embarking on a cloud migration.
Although PaaS and IaaS are both subsets of CaaS, there are major differences that help determine if PaaS is the right approach for a given project. PaaS offers a platform built upon hardware and software tools that can be used to develop applications, where IaaS broadly provides cloud-based services such as virtualization, storage, and networking over the internet.
PaaS provides a managed platform to build applications, which are then accessed by users via the internet. PaaS providers offer a wide array of OS, database, and development tools, and pricing models for PaaS providers will vary based on which subscription plan(s) are chosen by the organization. OS, database, and other tools are provided and maintained by the PaaS provider, which helps eliminate complexity inherent in traditional on-premises IT infrastructure deployments. PaaS platforms are ready for developers to dive in.
- As a public cloud service – where the developer or business controls the software deployment using the provided configuration options. The service provider manages the networks, servers, storage, and operating system which will host the application being developed.
- As a private cloud service – where the developer handles the building of the application behind a firewall. The firewall creates a private environment for businesses to deploy applications while still using the service provider’s infrastructure.
- As a hybrid cloud service – where businesses make use of a mix of private, public, and on-premises hardware to handle the building and deployment of applications.
Data security. Although major could providers offer some of the most stringent physical security available, organizations must understand that CaaS is a shared responsibility model for cloud security. Organizations should assume that every connection is stateless and insecure, and every transaction should be validated to ensure maximum security throughout.
Persistence. CaaS services are only as good as their network connectivity. Cloud adoption heavily depends on solid broadband connections between users and cloud providers, and in some cases between cloud providers themselves. Users who experience poor connectivity may consider acquiring backup network connections in case primary internet connectivity is lost.
Performance Impacts. Although most CaaS services ‘reserve’ the resources they require, some cloud services on shared servers or that co-reside on servers suffering a DDoS attack may be severely impacted and application performance could plummet.
Outages. Even the largest cloud providers suffer outages that can impact an organization’s ability to conduct business. To alleviate this, many providers offer multiple availability zones so organizations can failover from one zone to another when and if a disaster or outage strikes.
Control. Organizations adopting CaaS trade the need to upgrade infrastructure and constantly refresh hardware with a lack of control over the underlying infrastructure. Although this is most often not a problem it may impact governance or regulatory demands that data and applications be hosted in a specific location.