A survey of IaaS technologies
Among the leading providers of IaaS offerings are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, IBM, Alibaba Cloud, Oracle, Virtustream, CenturyLink, Rackspace, and Joyent.
The major technology components of every IaaS offering include compute resources, storage, and networking.
Some also offer self-service interfaces including web-based user interfaces and APIs, management tools delivered as services, and cloud software infrastructure services.
Key features of IaaS offerings include, according to Gartner:
- Both public and private cloud IaaS. A single architecture and feature set and cross-cloud management for both public and private clouds let you move workloads across the different service models depending on your needs.
- High security standards. Although all the provides claim they have high security standards, the extent of the controls they provide to customers varies greatly. All generally offer services that meet common regulatory compliance requirements, and they typically have SSAE 16 audits for their datacenters. Some might also have third-party security assessments for their IaaS offerings.
- High availability. Monthly compute availability service-level agreements (SLAs) of 99.95 percent and higher are typical—generally higher than availability SLAs for managed hosting. Many providers have additional SLAs that cover network availability and performance, as well as customer service responsiveness.
- Hourly pricing. All the providers offer per-hour metering of VMs, and some offer shorter metering increments that can be more cost-effective for short-term batch jobs, Gartner says. Most providers charge on a per-VM basis, and some offer a shared-resource pool pricing model or are flexible about how they price services.
The risks and challenges of IaaS
As with any other type of cloud service, IaaS comes with several risks and challenges that organizations need to address.
Among the key concerns are cyber security threats. Protecting data in the cloud depends highly on the security of the cloud infrastructure owned by the service provider. VMs could be exposed if there’s a compromised hypervisor, for example.
There’s also the security risks that come when employees of the service provider have direct access to the cloud infrastructure, including hardware, networks, and hypervisors.
Some of these security and privacy risks might lead to difficulties complying with government regulations. This is especially true for companies in highly regulated industries such as health care and financial services.
Another potential challenge is the complexity of managing an IT environment that relies heavily on cloud services provided by an outside entity. There will naturally be some loss of control as a result of relying on a service provider for critical IT functionality, and because IaaS providers own and maintain the infrastructure, management and monitoring might be more difficult for companies.
Finally, there are risks associated with the service providers themselves. As Gartner notes in its report, many of the providers in the market are re-evaluating their IaaS businesses as the market continues to consolidate around AWS, Microsoft, and Google—so you should be aware that some providers could make significant changes in the direction of their IaaS strategy. That includes replacing their current offering with a new platform, or even getting out of the IaaS business altogether.
Despite these and other challenges, IaaS is clearly on the rise as a way for organizations to create more agile and cost-efficient IT environments.
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