Levels of Control in Cloud Service Models

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Different types of cloud service models provide different levels of control over resources. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the minimum and maximum control capabilities of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

To Control Or Not To Control

Rebecca has decided she wants to learn computer coding to build a smartphone app from an idea she's had for a few years. She starts by watching videos and seeking out information online in an attempt to teach herself at home using her own computer. But, she quickly learns that self-teaching is not one of her strong suits.

She remembers a flyer she saw at the library, illustrating a free coding class they were hosting. Rebecca signs up and although the teacher is there to lend guidance, the skills she's learning from the course instruction isn't really geared toward what she wants to do.

Rebecca decides to seek out a more targeted course being offered at her local community college. In the process of attending class, however, she discovers that the focus for the semester is going to be on building a website - not what she's after.

She finally decides that all the hassle of studying, attending class and learning a new skill might be better served in other areas of her potential new business, and decides to hire an accomplished programmer to build the app for her.

By now, you may be asking yourself, ''Is this a lesson about coding?'' No, definitely not, but we can learn a lot from Rebecca when we think about cloud service models such as IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. What you can see is that Rebecca started with a do-it-yourself approach before moving into:

  • A level where she doesn't control the class format, but can control what she does with the information (IaaS); followed by,
  • A level where she has control, but must operate inside of a pre-defined structure (PaaS); followed by, finally,
  • A level where she relinquishes the majority of control in a payment-for-service model (SaaS).

Still not sure how Rebecca's experience correlates to different levels of control over resources in the three service models of cloud computing? Keep reading.

Control in Cloud Services Models

When we talk about cloud service models, we're referring to a virtual infrastructure where things like software, applications and storage are hosted, providing varying levels of access to individuals or businesses. The three most common types are:

  • IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): Virtual hardware is provided and managed by the cloud provider. Think Amazon Web Services or DigitalOcean.
  • PaaS (Platform as a Service): Both hardware and an operating system are provided and managed by the cloud provider. Good examples include Microsoft Azure and OpenShift.
  • SaaS (Software as a Service): Applications are provided and managed by the cloud provider. Google Apps and Dropbox are popular options.

With each of these comes varying levels of control, with the cloud provider doing some, most or all of the work. Let's take a look at each.

Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS functions much like a private server on a cloud. That means you, as the business representative or owner, has little control over the hardware that's hosting everything, but maximum control over things like the programs you buy, the data you generate, your operating system and applications. In essence, you leave the servers and storage up to the cloud provider and you control everything else.

Other than hosting everything in a do-it-yourself model like Rebecca was attempting above, this model provides maximum control over resources to you as the consumer. This is a good option for companies that need to grow, but don't want to mess with the logistics or cost of doing it all themselves. Maybe you don't have the bandwidth, capacity or space for hardware. If so, this is your best bet.

In this model, the end user has responsibility for things like programs, operating systems, users, data and middleware.

Platform as a Service

PaaS gives you less control than IaaS does. In essence, all you get to control are your applications and the data you generate; everything else is left up to the control of the cloud provider you choose. This is certainly more restrictive to the end consumer and most experts call it the most complex of the three models since you're walking a tight line between giving control of the infrastructure to the cloud provider while holding onto only the most basic controls within the parameters of the environment created for you.

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