In the second installment of our miniseries the comparison is between Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – the third and final most common variation of cloud computing categories which is defined by IBM as,
“a form of cloud computing that delivers fundamental compute, network, and storage resources to consumers on-demand, over the internet, and on a pay-as-you-go-basis.”
For the sake of consistency, we’re going to discuss the similarities, differences, advantages, and disadvantages of SaaS vs IaaS.
As was found with the similarities between SaaS and PaaS (Platform as a Service), the characteristics that SaaS and IaaS have in common are high-level, general characteristics that result from being subcategories to the same main category—cloud computing.
- Internet Delivery: no onsite installation of hardware or software is necessary.
- Scalability: services are available at various levels of quantity or extensiveness.
- Accessibility: services can be accessed by multiple users from nearly anywhere with internet.
- Responsibility: vendors retain some responsibility, relieving clients from some of the pressure that would come with the traditional counterparts to SaaS and IaaS.
Predictably, these similarities are nearly identical to those discussed in our previous blog, Miniseries: SaaS vs PaaS and upon closer inspection of these characteristics their details begin to reveal the differences that set the two apart from one another.
Under the cloud category, SaaS and IaaS have the greatest degree of separation, which produces a greater number of differences with more depth.
- Purpose: the purposes of SaaS and IaaS vary in their specificity. SaaS is generally employed for precise business needs. IaaS clients can host whatever operating system or applications they choose on the infrastructure, which results in a more malleable purpose.
- Services Provided: As we learned in the previous blog, SaaS vendors provide a finished application to their clients along with management of the entire tech stack. As it is stated in the definition above, IaaS only provides and manages the compute, network, and storage resources that are necessary to support the client’s operating systems and applications.
- Vendor Responsibility: Despite being similar in the general sense, SaaS and IaaS differ in the extent of responsibility retained by the vendor. SaaS vendors obviously retain the most which is responsibility for everything from networking to applications. In stark contrast, IaaS vendors retain the least which includes responsibility only for managing networking up through virtualization.
- Payment: SaaS is most commonly sold through a subscription service. Similar to PaaS, IaaS is sold on a consumption or a pay-as-you-go basis in which the client is only charged for what they use.
- Scalability: Although though a similarity in the general sense, the scalability of these two is vastly different in speed. IaaS has the potential to scale automatically. Due to the number of factors involved with a SaaS product, it may require slightly more time and administration to completely scale in either direction.
- Access: IaaS is accessed through a dashboard or API to provide the client with complete control of the infrastructure. SaaS is accessed through a login portal that provides them with the ability to use the application from anywhere.
Advantages: SaaS vs IaaS
Although we’ve discussed the advantages of SaaS in the previous installment of this series, they’ll be revisited and shared along with the advantages to formulate an understanding relative to their relationship.
- All inclusive: the cost of SaaS includes everything from maintenance to development and everything in between, which makes it incredibly convenient for the client.
- Course Maintenance: the convenience of no management and maintenance also allows the client to remain focused on their course towards overall business goals.
- Budgeting Friendly: fixed, scheduled payments help clients to budget more precisely and reduce cost risks.
- Advancement built-in: SaaS vendors need their product to remain on the leading-edge which means that clients benefit from regular development and advancement without extra costs.
- No Additional IT Resources: Without responsibility for management and development there is no need to pay for additional support staff and IT resources.
- No Upfront Costs: the pay-as-you-go model eliminates upfront costs and ensures that clients can optimize their budget.
- Control Without Maintenance: one of the greatest benefits of IaaS is that the client has all the control of physical services without the stress of managing and maintaining the physical servers.
- Great Flexibility: because the purpose of IaaS is broad, the client has the power and the flexibility to customize their tech stack to build whatever they need to tightly fit their specific goals and processes.
- Efficiency: similar to PaaS, IaaS accelerates the development process and improves the performance for faster deployment of more effective applications.
- Individuality: The flexibility and control give clients the opportunity to create unique applications that are unavailable to their competitors which could be a great differentiator for prospects and clients.
Disadvantages: SaaS vs IaaS
Finally, we look at the disadvantages of the two types to identify any characteristics that could be the difference between a boost to your business and blow to your progress.
- Restricted Customization: SaaS vendors offer great customization, however it’s important to remember that the vendor is providing a finished software product. Customization may not be as extensive as that of an application built from scratch within a PaaS or IaaS solution.
- Little to No Control: SaaS vendors may offer a varying number of self-administration functionalities, but they won’t compare to the wide-sweeping control that an IaaS solution offers.
- Lack of Individuality: once again, SaaS solutions are generally a complete product that is improved and expanded over time. This may result in all clients having access to the same tools and new features, which could lead to difficulty differentiating customer experiences among competitors.
- Slower to Scale: as we mentioned in the differences section, IaaS has the ability to scale Although SaaS is highly flexible and therefore extremely scalable, scaling may require a few more steps such as communicating with the vendor to express the desire for more users, different functionality, etc.
- Additional Administrative Costs: whether your organization has an existing IT staff or not, there may be external costs that arise from working with an IaaS vendor, such as additional staff, new technical equipment, etc.
- Unexpected Expense Potential: if not monitored closely, automated scaling could result in a charge that is over the organization budgeted amount leading to budget cuts from other important departments or programs.
- Extensive Responsibility: monitoring, maintaining, securing, and developing the virtual hardware and software is solely the responsibility of the client and will require a great deal of dedicated resources.
- Divided Attention: dedicating resources to an IaaS solution may draw attention away from high level initiatives which could lead to delays or inconsistencies in business growth, customer experience, etc.
SaaS vs IaaS Wrap Up
It’s quite clear that, although SaaS and IaaS are layers within the whole of cloud computing, they’re removed from one another by a slew of differences that produce advantages and disadvantages that make them appropriate for businesses with diverse circumstances, goals, budgets, and resources. Each vendor, whether SaaS or IaaS, will have unique offerings that may mitigate disadvantage or increase advantages. This basic comparison, as well as the previous comparison of SaaS and PaaS is essential to begin the decision process.