Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions make cloud computing, networking, and storage resources available to enterprises that pay a provider to manage the underlying technology that powers their applications.
IaaS providers manage the cloud infrastructure of an enterprise’s critical applications and workloads, providing the hardware on which it runs. Resources are virtualized so enterprises can have their applications hosted in a variety of locations, often in providers’ data centers.
IaaS benefits both enterprises that already have ample infrastructure resources and organizations that aren’t yet able to support an infrastructure on their own. See below to learn more about IaaS and some of the top providers in the market:
Choosing the right IaaS provider
Common features of IaaS solutions include:
- Virtualization: IaaS providers manage hardware and data center infrastructure and provide virtual machines for enterprises to access from geographically distributed locations.
- Public cloud storage: Many of the top IaaS providers also have storage platforms.
- Support for containers: IaaS providers often include services around Kubernetes container orchestration, for example.
- Security: These can include firewalls and cyberattack protections.
- Load balancing: IaaS platforms distribute workloads among resources, so they run in environments that have sufficient computing power to support them.
Benefits of IaaS solutions include:
- Reduced hardware costs: The ability to run workloads without having to manage the underlying hardware. Enterprises that don’t have the IT resources to maintain servers and data centers gain those through the provider’s services.
- Cost management: Your business pays for what resources it needs, rather than paying to maintain servers and other technology that might not be used all the time.
- Flexibility: Customize virtual machines and application environments. Top IaaS providers give customers the ability to design elements of their networking, storage, and compute resources.
Top IaaS providers
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud is an IaaS solution for companies that need a widespread cloud presence in many countries. AWS offers 400 Gbps Ethernet, for quickly scaling compute capacity, it provides four nines of availability. AWS also offers application migration tools for enterprises.
AWS also has a machine learning (ML) infrastructure comprising three layers: compute, networking, and storage; ML frameworks (TensorFlow, Gluon); and workflow services (Elastic Kubernetes Service, AWS Batch). AWS offers solutions for data processing, deep learning (DL) framework optimization, and time-sensitive large-scale training. If your large enterprise is preparing, training, or deploying ML models, consider AWS.
A public cloud environment doesn’t always make it clear who is able to access data and when, which regulations, like the GDPR, require companies to know. Ensuring consistent regulatory compliance with IaaS solutions like AWS is difficult; customers may need to purchase an additional cloud security solution, so they’re able to meet all their compliance requirements.
- 400 Gbps Ethernet networking
- Machine learning infrastructure that integrates with multiple software frameworks
- Customizable instances
- AWS Migration Tools for migrating applications
Also read: Best Managed IT Service Providers
Google Cloud’s IaaS portfolio features a range of services, including compute engine, cloud storage, and backup and disaster recovery.
For instance, Google Compute Engine (GCE) virtual machines are hosted on its infrastructure. Google Cloud has six different families of machine types, optimized for both general purpose and specific workloads; workload types include SAP HANA, ML, and massive parallelized computation.
Enterprises are able to customize their virtual machines’ compute and memory, from between 1 and 96 vCPUs and up to 8 GB of memory per vCPU. GCE machines are priced depending on their configured vCPU and memory; customers save money by configuring machines for exactly the computing power and memory they need.
GCE confidential computing encrypts data in use, obscuring it while it’s being processed. All user workloads can run as a confidential VM. GCE customers are not required to make any changes to their applications’ code to be able to run confidential VMs.
- Wide variety of virtual machine types
- Customizable VM resources
- Confidential computing that encrypts user data in use
- Cloud migration from physical servers or VMware vSphere
Also read: The Emergence of Confidential Computing
DigitalOcean is an IaaS provider that is based on Linux, a solution for smaller enterprises and developers who want to manage their own server setups. DigitalOcean’s “droplets” are virtual machines running on Linux. Droplets have free outbound data transfer for the first terabyte per month. DigitalOcean offers SLAs of four nines and security features, including cloud firewalls and SSL certificates.
DigitalOcean allows customers to add their domains to their DigitalOcean account and manage their DNS records for free. It offers customers the option to sign up through email, Google, or GitHub. For Linux-based organizations, particularly those in the software development industry, DigitalOcean provides developer tools, such as Command Line Interface (CLI).
DigitalOcean customers favorably review the provider’s pricing, simple to understand compared to its larger competitors.
- Linux-based IaaS for Linux users
- Developer tools for companies that want to customize their virtual infrastructure
- Free outbound data transfer for the first TB/month
- Multiple managed databases, including MongoDB and Postgre SQL
Also read: Best Server Virtualization Software
Microsoft Azure is an IaaS provider that offers a range of services, including artificial intelligence (AI), containers, storage, and networking. Azure offers container deployment through Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Azure Red Hat OpenShift, both managed solutions.
AKS provides authentication through Azure Active Directory and dynamic rule enforcement through Azure Policy, which evaluates Azure resource properties and compares them to established business policy definitions. Through Azure’s partnership with OpenShift, enterprises can pull code from a Git repository and build it with OpenShift’s source-to-image builds.
Security features from Azure include a firewall and distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyberattack protection. Azure also has a front door, which is a content delivery network (CDN) with customizable rules for routing and bot protection for applications.
- Static and dynamic content delivery on Azure Front Door
- Firewall and DDoS protection
- Multiple choices for deploying containers
- Over 200 data centers
Also read: Top Cloud Providers & Companies
Linode, owned by cybersecurity provider Akamai, is a cloud computing platform specifically for Linux organizations. Linode isn’t as widely known as the larger IaaS providers, and while its feature set isn’t as broad, it offers relatively low prices and has recently added features like Kubernetes support and object storage. If your organization is a smaller Linux-based enterprise, consider Linode.
Linode networking features include DNS management and DDoS protection. The DNS management feature allows businesses to move zones from a current web hosting provider to Linode. If they fail, name servers also automatically fail over to another server.
Linode also has plenty of developer tools. The Cloud Manager is a user interface for managing virtual machine instances and configuring networking settings; it also permits self-service data center migrations. Linode’s network monitoring provides performance graphs and allows companies to set custom resource usage threshold alerts.
- DNS management
- Block storage and object storage
- Cloud Manager VM and network management and other developer tools
- Relatively low pricing
|High performance computing clusters||CLI tool||Four nines of availability|
“We have been using DigitalOcean for our marketing website’s and landing pages’ hosting for more than two years. The reliable infrastructure, easy-to-use admin dashboard, multitude of server locations in different geos, and technology infrastructure options saved us from managing different platforms with different administrators.” –CEO in the hospitality and travel industry, review of DigitalOcean at Gartner Peer Insights
“As an architect for cognitive setup and building up our product learning skills, we planned to use EC2 P3 instance. It provides … throughput of about 90/100 Gbps. As it’s powered by NVIDIA (v-100) GPUs, it’s easier for our developers to train machine learning applications [at] a … faster pace. … Our main concern was whether it is suitable with ML frameworks. … [It covers] almost all the popular frameworks, like Gluon, Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit, and a lot more.” –Admin in IT services, review of AWS EC2 P3 at Gartner Peer Insights
“One of the most popular services in AWS is EC2. Using this web service, we can easily launch and configure a VPS using various operating systems, such as Ubuntu, Fedora, etc. EC2 is the easiest way to launch a server in the cloud. We can connect any of the AWS services easily with EC2, like code commit and pipeline, backup, RDS, S3, and so on.” –Technical lead in IT services, review of AWS EC2 P3 at Gartner Peer Insights
What to look for in IaaS providers
Watch carefully for vendor lock-in in the IaaS market. If that’s something you know your company can’t risk or you have a breadth of existing software, choose a provider that integrates well with what you use.
If you’re a smaller enterprise or know that you don’t have extensive IT personnel to troubleshoot problems, consider an IaaS provider that’s renowned for its customer support, responsiveness, and management console. Large IaaS providers may not be able to give growing enterprises with smaller IT teams the level of customer service they need to effectively scale.
Choose a provider whose pricing model works best for your enterprise: For example, Linode’s fixed pricing might cut costs for enterprise customers that just need flat service rates. But AWS’s resource-specific pricing could help enterprises with rapidly shifting resource demands save money.
Read next: Best Hybrid Cloud Storage Vendors & Software