Cloud computing has changed the way we deploy business applications and manage IT environments. While all cloud services share some common ground, not all cloud services are created equal. In this post we’ll take a closer at Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and why it may be the perfect cloud solution for managed service providers.
The Infrastructure-as-a-Service model is based on provisioning hardware resources. Servers, storage devices, and other physical components are pooled from a collection of networks and delivered to the end user as virtual resources. The true beauty of IaaS is that it allows you to create your own high-powered IT infrastructure without physically deploying it within your own data center. In many ways, it is the gateway to breaking into the cloud business as you have the luxury to add a wide variety of highly sought-after cloud-based services to your existing menu.
The benefits of IaaS are uniquely advantageous to MSPs and include the following:
- Budget-friendly pricing: Since you’re practically leasing the equipment from a third-party, IaaS eliminates the need to make costly investments in procuring, installing, and managing hardware. Further savings can be realized from the cloud’s utility-based billing model, which generally requires you to only pay for the resources you use.
- Simplicity: The cloud is designed to simplify the task of IT management. All the resources deployed in an IaaS arrangement are physically managed by a service provider in a remote data center. While a virtual infrastructure presents its own unique management challenges, MSPs are spared the burden of maintaining and securing additional hardware.
- Scalability: IaaS gives you an enterprise infrastructure and all the scalability that comes with it. So, if you need to expand to accommodate your customer’s growth, a cloud vendor can provide the necessary capacity. Likewise, any unused capacity or components can be placed back into the pool without wasting costly resources.
- Mobility: Like any cloud service, an IaaS solution can be accessed from anywhere, on any device. This gives MSPs the ability to offer on-the-go access that ensures mobile clients can remain productive regardless of location.
- Business continuity: IaaS minimizes significant downtime and data loss by eliminating single points of failure. If one server goes down, the cloud provider can immediately fail-over to another. Coupled with existing business continuity measures, this redundant configuration ensures that MSPs can quickly recover from disaster.
There is certainly a lot to like about the IaaS model. But like any cloud service, this one has its drawbacks. In this next section, we’ll examine some general concerns MSPs should take into consideration.
- Enhanced security risks: Cloud computing has been marred by tales of high profile breaches, leaked passwords, and massive data loss. IaaS puts the responsibility of both IT management and security on a third-party provider. However, the burden of choosing a cloud vendor that can deliver a secure solution is on the customer.
- Downtime and availability: Any MSP will welcome the luxury of not having to maintain additional hardware and all the challenges that come with the territory. With that said, technical difficulties are a given, and the outsourced nature of cloud computing limits your ability to keep them under control. As with security, customers must trust that an IaaS vendor will minimize downtime and maximize availability.
- Limited control: Lack of control is one of the biggest knocks on IaaS. You have little say about software installations, data backups, and other aspects that are critical to IT management. This limited control essentially limits the flexibility the cloud is so well known for.
- Immobility: IaaS is perhaps at its least flexible when it comes time to make a move. Migrating your data and applications to company B can be incredibly difficult once you enter a contractual arrangement with company A. According to a survey conducted by Wakefield Research, 78 percent of IT leaders believe concerns associated with vendor lock-in prevent their organization from taking full advantage of the cloud.
Combining simplicity, scalability, and flexibility in one cost-effective package, IaaS can deliver all the tools MSP needs to gain a competitive edge. However, whether these advantages are realized hinges entirely on your choice of cloud providers. A unified cloud with seamless interoperability sounds good, but vendors have very little incentive to create a smooth transition between competing platforms. On the bright side, the aforementioned concerns will be minimized if you can find a partner that is capable of customizing an IaaS solution around your specific business needs.