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Microsoft Azure: IaaS vs. PaaS

Cloud computing is everywhere, bringing flexible and efficient computing to businesses and organisations of all sizes. Microsoft Azure is one of the biggest and most popular cloud services, providing several different delivery options, including Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS) servers.

Where a business simply wants to pay for the use of a third-party application, without any need to understand the underlying server and software infrastructure, SaaS is the way to go. But what happens if more control is required, or if a business wants to roll out their own application or tools?

Either Infrastructure as a Service or Platform as a Service could be the answer, and both options are fully supported on Azure. What are the differences, and benefits of each? Which Microsoft Azure offering is the right one to use?

What Is Azure IaaS?

Infrastructure as a Service with the Azure architecture provides the data centre hardware you might need, via the cloud. This includes computing power, storage, and networking for example. With IaaS, you still have to install, configure, operate, and manage the individual elements, including systems, databases, development tools, and other middleware or applications.

Microsoft Azure provides an IaaS toolkit, making it easier for you to run essential operations like building web apps, hosting websites, developing, and testing new environments. You can also back up and store data. Azure IaaS is highly scalable, allowing users to grow their cloud system as required.

Examples of IaaS

Disaster recovery: IaaS allows a business to quickly recreate the building blocks of an on-site system (servers, storage, networking) that has failed. By restoring the middleware, tools and application to a cloud-based system, the business can carry on functioning whilst they recover the in-house system.

High Performance Computing (HPC): The pay-as-you-go nature of IaaS allows users to access very large amounts of compute power, without the need to purchase a physical HPC system. This is particularly useful for shorter term research or data mining projects, as well as proof-of-concept scenarios.

Data storage and backup: IaaS allows a business to store multiple copies of data in the cloud, which by definition is ‘off-site’. The ability to quickly and easily scale the size of data stored, and configure how the data is protected and backed up, make IaaS an extremely flexible storage option.

Azure IaaS benefits

Azure IaaS helps you avoid onsite compute power and other computing infrastructure. You do not have to buy and manage servers, routers, cabling, or deal with spacing and utilities. You simply purchase and manage all your software, including OS, middleware, and applications, plus other components such as databases and development tools.

Save money on hardware: Migrating from an in-house data centre into an Infrastructure as a Service cloud solution saves on hardware expenditure and reduces data centre maintenance and running costs.

Scale easily: Scaling with Azure IaaS is simple and granular in terms of cost. You can scale cloud-based infrastructure resources up and down based on demand.

Quick and easy: Provisioning IaaS cloud-based infrastructure is fast and can be done instantly. For example, you can provision a load-sharing solution to improve the reliability of your application.

Improved IT operations: Virtualization services and cloud orchestration software is fully supported to improve the IT operations within the Azure cloud and between on-premises or other clouds.

What is Azure PaaS?

Azure Platform as a service (PaaS) is a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud. It includes resources that help deliver everything from simple cloud-based apps to sophisticated enterprise-wide applications. In addition to the servers, storage, and networking that IaaS provides, PaaS includes operating systems, middleware, development tools, business intelligence (BI) services, database management systems, and more.

Azure PaaS cloud services leaves the behind-the-scenes application management entirely up to Microsoft, meaning that less technical support is needed from the user. You manage the applications and services you develop, and Azure PaaS manages the rest.

Examples of PaaS

Microsoft tell us that the three most common uses of Azure PaaS are:

Development frameworks: PaaS provides a framework that developers can build upon to develop or customise cloud-based applications. Cloud features such as scalability, high-availability and multi-tenant capability are included, reducing the amount of coding that developers must do.

Analytics or business intelligence: Tools provided as a service with PaaS allow organisations to analyse and mine their data, finding insights and patterns, and predicting outcomes to improve forecasting, product design, investment returns and other business decisions.

Security and additional services: PaaS providers may offer other services that enhance applications, such as workflow, directory, security, and scheduling.

Azure PaaS Benefits

The additional features provided by PaaS, such as middleware, development and other business tools, allow you to be more productive, with a lower reliance on in-house technical skills.

Save time: PaaS development tools can cut the time it takes to code new apps with pre-coded application components built into the platform, such as workflow, directory services, security features, search and so on.

Support: Azure PaaS includes the capabilities you need to support the complete web application lifecycle: building, testing, deploying, managing, and updating, within the same cloud environment.

Affordable: The Azure PaaS pay-as-you-go model makes it much more affordable for individuals and organisations to use sophisticated development software, business intelligence and analytics tools.

The Differences Between Azure IaaS and PaaS

Azure IaaS and PaaS both allow an organisation to host applications in the cloud. With IaaS, Azure requires the user to install, set up and manage their own system environment, including providing the relevant licences for tools and middleware. With Azure PaaS, this support is already built in and available on a pay-as-you-go basis. This eliminates the need for a business to manage their cloud platforms and software, speeding up development.

Choosing between Azure IaaS and PaaS

Both Azure IaaS and PaaS are excellent cloud options. There is no simple answer as to which one is right. Both are available as pay-as-you-go services, the lower cost IaaS option requires the user to do more on an operational level, and provide the required licences. Azure PaaS is the more comprehensive offering, with a slightly higher cost, as more functionality and tools are provided. If the additional functionality of PaaS is not required, IaaS makes an excellent entry point into Azure cloud. If cost effective application development and cloud provisioning is important, PaaS may be more appropriate.

How can I find out more about Azure IaaS and PaaS cloud?

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of which Azure platform is right for you. If you would like to find out more, come and talk to us. We are an accredited Microsoft Cloud Partner and have a wealth of experience helping customers deploy IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS cloud solutions. With no sales calls, obligations, or charges, we would be pleased to discuss how Azure can help your business. Mintivo have worked with many valued customers to help deliver IT solutions to meet their business needs.

To find out more about Azure IaaS and PaaS and how Mintivo can help, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.

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