What’s the Difference between IaaS and PaaS?

Written by Zach DeMeyer on September 27, 2019

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As organizations look to improve their infrastructure and develop new software, the cloud offers tempting benefits to extensibility and efficiency in development and operations (DevOps).

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) are two solutions that can provide these benefits to organizations but at first glance seem very similar. What’s the difference between IaaS and PaaS?

What is IaaS?

Infrastructure-as-a-Service provides organizations with completely cloud-hosted servers and an associated operating system (OS) with which they can do whatever they please. This gives them the ability to implement their software completely in the cloud, or house other necessary infrastructure without the need for on-prem server stacks. 

Using IaaS for development is predicated on the fact that the organization deploys all of the software stack above the virtualization layer. This includes middleware, runtime, and other peripheral applications.

IaaS benefits allow for the scalability of more tedious organizational needs, such as storage, disaster recovery, etc. By offloading these to cloud infrastructure, organizations can use the time normally spent worrying about these tasks to better their businesses in other crucial ways.

Several key players in the IaaS space include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

What is PaaS?

Platform-as-a-Service gives organizations a fully featured platform in which they can develop, test, and deploy their applications from the cloud. In essence, with PaaS, developers only need to bring their code, which can usually be created in a variety of popular languages, and the hardware, networking, and security (and potential infrastructure failure) are handled by the PaaS.

PaaS streamlines operations and provides agility to organizations looking to get the most bang for their buck. Like IaaS, generally PaaS solutions are charged by some combination of time, amount of computer time/power used, and network bandwidth/storage. The good news is that organizations do not need to implement their own dev environment, either on-prem or in the cloud. And, with the rise of remote work in the modern world, PaaS gives developers the opportunity to perform their duties regardless of where they are.

Examples of popular PaaS vendors include Heroku, AppScale, and AWS Elastic Beanstalk.

Comparing IaaS and PaaS

At the end of the day, IaaS and PaaS are really quite similar. PaaS provides customers with an option that reduces the amount of work/hosting needed from product developers and engineering.

This also means that PaaS-leveraging organizations do not need quite as many DevOps positions; the majority of the work is already laid out for them in the PaaS. 

It does, however, leave them beholden to whatever the offerings of their particular PaaS provider are. This can be troublesome for smaller/less-experienced teams. Also, they are vulnerable to being locked in to the provider, the particular language or stack being used, and a cost model that is likely scaling on them.

IaaS requires a bit more work/setup to properly implement, but it gives DevOps engineers the ability to freely develop their app to the specs they want. Beyond that, it provides massive cloud data centers that can be used to offload almost all on-prem infrastructure, and theoretically is easier to switch from one Linux or Windows cloud provider to another.

Both solutions also have one major thing in common. Given the criticality of the data stored in IaaS and PaaS, both require strong identity management in order to protect them from identity compromise. 

Traditionally, identity management stems from an on-prem directory service. Unfortunately, many of these options struggle to extend identities to cloud infrastructure without a good bit of help from other tools.

That’s why a cloud directory service is an ideal tool for IaaS and PaaS identity management. 

Cloud Directory Service for IaaS & PaaS

A cloud directory service gives organizations all of the usual benefits of on-prem identity management, but from a centralized source in the cloud. A cloud directory service connects end users to the wide variety of IT resources they need, including IaaS and PaaS, using several authentication protocols.

For example, using SSH keys, a cloud directory service securely authenticates user access to Linux cloud servers, regardless of the provider. SAML-based single sign-on (SSO) through a cloud directory service can be used for a variety of PaaS tools. A cloud directory service also provides multi-factor authentication (MFA) applied to VPNs through RADIUS, which helps secure IaaS access as well.

Learn More

By locking access to IaaS and PaaS down tight, IT admins can rest assured that only the right folks have access to the resources they need; no more, no less. You can learn more about using a cloud directory service in tandem with IaaS and PaaS by contacting us. Our expert team can help you navigate through cloud identity management infrastructure, systems, applications, networks, and more.

Zach DeMeyer

Zach is a Product Marketing Specialist at JumpCloud with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He loves being on the cutting edge of new technology, and when he's not working, he enjoys all things outdoors, music, and soccer.

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