Category: Cloud Computing

Understanding the Cloud Stack: SaaS, PaaS, IaaS

Chances are you have heard the terms Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

While some may use these terms interchangeably when referring to the cloud, the truth is that each service is part of a much larger cloud computing stack.

Sound confusing? Then try picturing the cloud as a three tiered pyramid, with IaaS making up the bottom tier, and SaaS making up the top tier:

SaaS – Applications used by the end user


PaaS – Primarily a development platform used for developers


IaaS – The server, storage, network, and operating system responsible for powering everything

Characteristics of SaaS

At the SaaS level, the users are subscribing to a specific software or service – This generally will include:

  • Internet login access to the software or application
  • Software upgrades, patches and other maintenance are performed by the provider – not the user
  • Software is managed by a single provider from one location

Characteristics of PaaS

For users or developers who need a platform for deploying an application, a PaaS service offering will supply the hardware, operating system and other resources necessary for hosting – This generally will include:

  • Develop, test, and deploy applications
  • Host, maintain and secure applications
  • Scalability of the software

Characteristics of IaaS

Acting as the foundation of the cloud, the IaaS service is responsible for the delivery of on demand services. The IaaS cloud is used for everything from building and validating new applications to operating production environments that require scalability – This will include:

  • Delivery of servers, storage, and network hardware
  • Scalable computing resources
  • Variable cost pricing model
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