“By 2012, 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets.”1 While the need for hardware will not disappear completely, hardware ownership is going through a transition: Virtualization, total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits, an openness to allow users run their personal machines on corporate networks, and the advent of cloud computing are all driving the movement to reduce hardware assets.
While many IT departments haven’t yet fully embraced all the potential of cloud computing, there is a growing understanding that cloud computing can offer cost savings, including a reduction in capital expenses. Cloud computing also offers the ability to deliver critical business applications, systems, and services around the world with a high degree of availability, which enables a more productive workforce.
There are three primary deployment models for the cloud: public (resources provisioned and available over the Internet), private (internal provision of resources through intranet and virtualization), and hybrid (a combination of public and private models). Within these deployment models, different delivery services provide infrastructure, platform, and software delivery. Although there is also some confusion (and disagreement) about the parameters of these services—particularly given the ongoing evolution of the cloud—most of the industry recognizes three service delivery models:
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): IaaS delivers computing infrastructure as a service. Instead of purchasing hardware and other infrastructure components, customers use some form of virtualization to access outsourced resources. Because consumption is on an on-demand basis, costs directly reflect the amount of use.
Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS delivers computing and development platforms (for example, Microsoft .NET, Java EE, Google applications) as a service, giving users the ability to deploy and develop applications without significant hardware and software expense or management time. Since the deployment platform is very specific, like .NET, there might be limitations of the types of applications that might be supported. For instance, Google App Engine only supports applications written using Python while Heroku supports Ruby on Rails application development.
Software as a Service (SaaS): By delivering applications as a service, SaaS offers customers pre-packaged/pre-built applications through a standard web browser. With SaaS, customers can avoid the installation and management of software on their own computers and further benefit from centralized, automatic software updates as well as lower costs. Customers don’t need to dedicate valuable resources to software deployment or management.
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