Wide area network (WAN) managers can benefit greatly from understanding the different types of cloud computing services available to them. In this primer, understand how SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and other types of cloud services can improve your business IT teams.
Why do WAN managers need to know about the different types of cloud computing services?
Many WAN managers tend to think about cloud computing as something the rest of the organization will use. IT staff, including database and business analysts, will help the lines of business pick solutions, then configure, migrate to and integrate them. However, IT is itself a line of business! IT can benefit from cloud delivery modes, especially the cloud's ability to deliver a large enterprise IT infrastructure to a small business. This tutorial explains how the cloud can be a significant equalizer in IT, just as in other parts of the business.
What are the different types of cloud computing services?
What do we mean by cloud computing services? Cloud computing comes in three basic flavors: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
SaaS is far and away the most common model of cloud service: Companies buy access to an application but have no responsibility for (and no control over) its implementation. More than 60% of companies that Nemertes works with already use at least one (and often several ) applications that they get via SaaS, ranging from horizontally useful tools such as customer relationship management (as with Salesforce.com) to more vertically specific tools for such tasks as insurance claims adjustment, classroom scheduling and medical billing management.
PaaS involves providing a platform on which a customer can run its own applications. For example, a small company might have a Java application to which it has trouble providing enough resources during holiday peak loads. The company might go to a platform provider, such as Akamai, to run the system on its Java application server framework. Microsoft, Force.com and Google also provide platforms on which customers can run applications.
IaaS allows an organization to run entire data center application stacks, from the operating system up to the application, on a service provider's infrastructure. Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud is perhaps the most famous public cloud infrastructure available.
What WAN managers need to know about IaaS, PaaS and SaaS
IaaS and PaaS are used less frequently than SaaS. Fewer than 2% of the companies Nemertes works with have funded IaaS or PaaS deployments. Small companies (those with less than $300 million in revenues, or fewer than 250 employees) adopt IaaS or PaaS more often than large companies because they can find such great leverage in the model -- they can obtain a big-data-center IT for organizations that may have an IT staff of one and no data center at all.
IT staff can make use of cloud offerings to meet many kinds of operational needs. As in other areas of cloud function, SaaS leads the way. The areas in which we see the most mature SaaS options are, perhaps, security (security as a service), but many others -- ranging from project planning to network and systems management -- are appearing more frequently as well.
Security as a service
Security as a service (also SaaS) options are many and varied, and include the following:
- Content security services such as spam and anti-malware filtering for email (like Google's Postini) and Web content filtering (as from WebSense).
- Network security services such as firewall, intrusion detection and prevention, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection (available from AT&T and other carriers).
- Data leak prevention (DLP) (for example, Proofpoint).
- Single sign-on (SSO) (from Symplified).
- Log management and analysis (as from Citrix, via its Paglo acquisition).
What WAN managers need to know about security as a service
Security services in the cloud have some important advantages for organizations, including the fact that security threats can often be dealt with before they hit the company LAN. DDoS mitigation upstream from company Internet links, malware scanning and spam filtering can be especially advantageous as it reduces the Internet bandwidth wasted on bringing network attacks, junk emails or contaminated webpages to the LAN only to delete them when they get there. It can also extend the benefits of enterprise-level security to remote, mobile and small-branch users.
Project planning services
In project planning, many solutions are available, including Clarizen, Liquid Planner, and OnePoint. As with any SaaS solution, project planning via SaaS can offer IT teams a lightweight infrastructure for managing projects, easily picked up by teams for the duration of projects, as needed and without any infrastructural resource commitments.
Network and systems management services
Network and systems management SaaS offerings are multiplying rapidly and currently include Zoho (ManageEngine), Viewfinity, EverDream and Paragent. SaaS can make management of small and remote branches -- and of teleworkers in home offices and on the road -- easier than with conventional appliance or server-based management. Cloud delivery also enables even small organizations to manage systems the way a large enterprise might.
Looking beyond SaaS, network managers can look at PaaS and IaaS as vehicles for implementing more conventional management or other technologies. A company might run a Java-based project management tool like EmForge on a cloud service provider application server; or it might run a homegrown .Net content management system on Microsoft's Azure cloud. IaaS may offer a platform for massive log analysis (for example as a platform for post-incident forensic analysis of a massive log stream) or other kinds of compute-intensive tasks.
How can these types of cloud computing services benefit WAN managers?
The bottom line is, cloud computing services can offer as much leverage to IT for its own work as for the work it does for the rest of an organization. All such cloud options have to be evaluated within the organization's tolerance for risk and ability to trust and verify provider security. That said, the potential benefits are such that all organizations, small and large, must begin to evaluate SaaS offerings as well as in-house implementations for all kinds of IT work, and PaaS and IaaS options for in-house implementations.
For more information, read our cloud computing tutorial for WAN managers.
This was first published in March 2010