By Chandrakant Dollin, OpenSky Corporation

IT managers know that in order to remain competitive in today’s business world, they must choose the best way to host data and applications in the cloud. So, depending on the situation they evaluate one of two specific cloud solutions: IaaS or PaaS.

Most IT leaders certainly understand that IaaS gives them virtual machines (VM) with operating systems (OS) and PaaS provides the VM, the OS and the development platform for the application – including options such as Apache, Java and Python – but the choice isn’t as simple as it first seems, and the jury is still split over which cloud service is best.

Only a year ago, InformationWeek’s Krishnan Subramanian argued that PaaS is dead along with NetworkWorld’s Brandon Butler, yet self-proclaimed “tech evangelist” JP Morgenthal asserted the opposite, making the claim that the future lies in PaaS. Regardless of the tech press, Cisco estimated that by 2018, 28 percent of total cloud workloads will exist in IaaS, while 13 percent will live in PaaS environments. There is no right decision, however, and there is certainly room for both IaaS and PaaS.

The bottom line is that there are many details that businesses must consider when evaluating which cloud service – IaaS or PaaS – is best for the organization, or even which application is better supported on their as-a-service solution. So, let’s take a dive into the four aspects of leveraging IaaS vs PaaS that every business should consider.

“When it comes to control, PaaS simply cannot compete with IaaS.”

1. Control
When it comes to control, PaaS simply cannot compete with IaaS. Even the National Institute of Standards and Technology references this stark difference: The government association defined PaaS as a service model in which “the customer does not … control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems  or storage,” while IaaS, on the other hand, is explained as a system that “the consumer does not … control the underlying cloud infrastructure, but has control over [OSs], storage and applications.” The ability to update or modify any aspect of the virtual machine is what separates PaaS from IaaS.

As an example, if an application requires a precise version of JRE – something like version 8 update 30 – a PaaS solution might only offer version 8 update 40 and above. The thing with PaaS is that IT teams cannot install the JRE version required by the application because IT doesn’t have access to the OS. However, in IaaS, IT is the administrator of the OS and, therefore, the VM, allowing them to make any necessary adjustments.

Another control consideration for businesses lies in disaster recovery and business continuity. In most – not all – PaaS services, VMs are stateless, meaning that if something goes wrong with that machine, the cloud provider will just deploy a standard template. Simply put, all that customization and data will be gone. With IaaS, IT teams control the VM, allowing them to create states and preserve configurations and data.


Who has control over virtual environments plays a big factor in choosing between PaaS and IaaS.

2. Legacy application support
A common problem nowadays is that businesses are still supporting a wealth of older software, and those legacy applications use application stacks, middleware and Web servers that are out dated. In these cases, IaaS makes more sense. The legacy applications can be supported as long as the cloud provider has the correct version of the OS available.

However, PaaS is still an option for businesses running legacy solutions. These companies can upgrade their applications to the appropriate version in association with PaaS system requirements to gain efficiencies in standardization and maintenance of the stack. Large organizations with as many as 3,000 applications have to evaluate this decision carefully, including the cost of migration to PaaS.

3. Management overhead
PaaS scores much better in regard to operational management and overheads. Simply put, IT teams don’t need to manage, control or maintain storage, OSs or middleware, drastically reducing the need for system management and IT operations support.

“With PaaS, IT teams don’t need to manage, control or maintain storage, OSs or middleware.”

Businesses do need to add additional focus on cloud security when adopting any cloud service. PaaS offers better security posture than IaaS due to standardization of more of the stack layers. Also in PaaS, some of the security management (e.g. OS patching) is off loaded to the cloud provider reducing security management overhead for subscribers. For both IaaS and PaaS, addressing security risks now expands through the contractual relationship to the cloud provider, and must be understood and adapted to multiple mobile platforms. See our separate blog on cloud security consideration.

4. Agility
Cloud and agility go hand in hand, and faster IT provisioning results in short go-to-market time for enterprise products and solutions. In PaaS, rapidly provisioning applications is a fast process, as IT teams can forget about installing middleware, web servers and many more tools. As described above, PaaS is a pre-installed package.

The consideration here should be in regard to the standardization of application stacks since agility comes from that standardization. If a business has an easy-to-install application stack, then IaaS is reasonable, but otherwise, creating and deploying those on VMs will be time-consuming, thereby limiting agility.


With these four cloud service considerations, business leaders and IT managers are ready to take a good look at IaaS and PaaS solutions, allowing them to evaluate each objective based on requirements and desires and succeed in cloud implementation.

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Looking for help with your cloud security or need assistance integrating an IaaS or SaaS solution? Find more information about our Cloud Security Assessments and Cloud Strategy and Integration Services, or contact OpenSky to discuss your specific needs.

Source: Sky Chat IT Blog



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