IaaS Vs PaaS – Understanding The Difference

IaaS Vs PaaS – Understanding The Difference

As IT costs related to both hardware and software continue to escalate, responsible organizations are seeking out efficient, cost effective solutions to its IT needs. Over the past few years, the term “cloud computing” has been developed to represent the delivering of IT resources by third parties.

The entire “cloud” revolution exists because organizations and/or individuals no longer have the desire to hold closely to the responsibilities related to hosting their own software and/or hardware.

Three Levels of Cloud Computing

There are three “stacks” of cloud computing, where each level requires an additional commitment on the part of the user.

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – Ready-made software products are made available by a software developer through a web-interface that is easily accessed by end-users over the Internet. Gmail is a good example of this type of cloud computing service.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – At the next level, third party vendors provide access to tools that can be used to develop or customize software applications to meet the users needs. These tools are kept on hardware hosted and maintained by the cloud computing provider.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – At the highest level, third party vendors provide the necessary hardware (severs, storage, networking equipment, ect) in a shared or private environment. The end-user purchases the right to use this hardware based upon need or consumption. The responsibility for maintaining software applications and data then falls to the user.

Comparing PaaS vs IaaS

Now that each level of cloud computing services has been defined, it becomes easier to provide a meaningful comparison of the latter two levels, PaaS vs IaaS.

While SaaS is currently the most predominant level currently in use, PaaS is trending towards becoming the new standard.

Service Environment

One of the primary differences in an IaaS vs PaaS comparison is the environment in which the services are provided.

Currently, PaaS is provided exclusively in a public domain. Multiple users are given access to the development tools needed to customize the available software. New versions of the development tools and data storage are maintained by the provider for the benefits of all users.

As mentioned above, IaaS is provided in a public or private environment. In a public environment, multiple users purchase a proportion of community hardware resources based on consumption. The related costs are shared amongst all users. In a private environment, the hardware is dedicated to a sole user.

That user bears more functional and financial responsibility over the hardware that is being used, while the provider maintains the physical machinery.

Functional Comparison

The most important distinction between IaaS vs PaaS relates to the functional difference between the two.

At the most basic level, PaaS relates to the sharing of software applications, where as IaaS involves the sharing of hardware resources. PaaS is driven by the user’s need for customized software without the need to control hardware location or maintenance.

IaaS is driven by the need for hardware support when the costs related to bringing hardware in house create budget problems. IaaS users wish to maintain some level of control over the hardware for logistical reasons.

The Lines are Blurring

As both IaaS and PaaS continue to evolve, some of the distinctions between the two are starting to dissipate.

IaaS providers are beginning to see the value of also incorporating aspects of PaaS into their product. Larger companies who are looking for a total IT solution without having to make a huge capital investment are increasingly more interested in a combined option.

It simply allows larger companies to have some control over hardware as they deploy teams of software developers to develop its custom applications. Under this new model, it takes the form of organizations being able to effectively rent their own IT department at a fraction of the costs.


As all types of “cloud services” evolve, customers will be in a position to dictate trends based upon the needs they express. Organizations are becoming more sophisticated and its need for custom software and hardware control will ultimately make PaaS and IaaS infinitely more popular.

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