What is Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)?

Written by Vince Lujan on March 17, 2019

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The term Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) refers to a category of IT solution that offers virtual computing services and infrastructure applications from the cloud. Some of the most notable vendors in the IaaS space include AWS, Azure, and GCE.

IaaS solutions enable IT organizations to shift various aspects (or the entirety) of their on-prem or collocated data center to the cloud. Thus, eliminating the need to purchase hardware and manage ongoing infrastructure operations in house.

With IaaS, IT admins simply purchase the compute, storage, and infrastructure application resources needed to support their specific environment, and the rest operates virtually.

Cloud infrastructure is critical to IT organizations in the modern era. As IT organizations search for ways to move faster and more cost-effectively, eliminating the need to implement and maintain a complicated on-prem network or data center can be a game changer.

The issue with Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions has historically been that controlling user access to remote devices and applications can be difficult. It traditionally requires a variety of siloed identity management solutions and heavy investment into connecting these remote resources to on-prem identity management infrastructure.

Of course, that is no longer the case now that the JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service platform has come to market.

The Rise of Infrastructure-as-a-Service

Prior to the rise of IaaS in the early-2000s, almost all of IT infrastructure was on-prem (or connected via VPN) and the majority of it was based on the Microsoft Windows operating system (OS).

This enabled IT admins to leverage Active Directory (AD), Microsoft’s on-prem identity management platform for Windows-based networks, to manage user access to virtually all of the domain-bound IT resources in a given environment at the time.

While AD was certainly effective at managing old school networks of Windows-based IT resources, the challenge became that IT networks started to shift around the turn of the century as a number of new innovations came to market. Many of these new innovations were not Windows-based and they were delivered “as-a-Service” from the Cloud, as it is known today, which included the concept of Infrastructure-as-a-Service.

The main idea behind Infrastructure-as-a-Service is essentially that IT organizations can shift the manual burden of implementing and maintaining an on-prem or collocated data center to a third-party provider. Thus, enabling IT professionals to focus on more important tasks by eliminating the need to purchase hardware and manage ongoing infrastructure operations in house.

IaaS Challenges

The primary challenge with IaaS solutions is that securely managing and connecting users to remote infrastructure can be difficult, especially in a pure Active Directory environment. After all, AD was specifically designed for on-prem networks of Windows-based IT resources. Yet, IaaS solutions are cloud-based and often run on Linux® or other non-Windows platforms.

At a higher level, connecting users to cloud-based infrastructure is only one of many identity management challenges with modern networks. There are also macOS® and Linux systems, web applications, virtual file storage alternatives, and networks spanning multiple locations to name a few examples—all of which are difficult to manage directly in a pure AD environment.

To be fair, IT organizations can leverage third-party directory extension technologies to mitigate some of these identity management challenges. Specifically with respect to IaaS, IT organizations can leverage privileged identity management (PIM) solutions to extend traditional user identities to critical applications and infrastructure in the cloud.

However, the issue with the add-on approach is that IT organizations then require a patchwork of third-party extensions layered on top of their legacy identity management infrastructure on-prem just to shuttle a core user identity to various endpoints.

A Modern IaaS IdP

Ideally, IT organizations would be able to leverage a next generation identity management platform that was designed to support modern Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions. It would be even better if that same solution could securely manage and connect users to virtually any IT resource, regardless of the platform, provider, protocol, or location and without the help of third-party add-ons.

Yet, the real cherry on top would be if this comprehensive identity management solution was offered as a service. Thus, enabling IT organizations to shift their entire identity management infrastructure to the Cloud. Fortunately, this is achievable with the JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service platform.

Contact JumpCloud to learn more about IaaS, and to see how IaaS and DaaS complement each other. Sign up for a free account and see for yourself. We offer 10 users free forever to help get you started. You can also check out our whiteboard presentation, The JumpCloud Story, to gain additional insight into the JumpCloud philosophy.

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and video specialist at JumpCloud. Originally from the horse capital of New Mexico, Corrales, he has lived in Boulder, Colorado for three years. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found at the Boulder Creek.

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