The Cloud! Hurray for buzzwords! (No puns or bad jokes were harmed in the writing of this blog post. You can thank us later.) The cloud is the biggest and best of them and EVERYONE wants you “to go” to it … but what does that ACTUALLY mean? Well, we hate to tell you this, but there is no cloud — it’s just someone else’s computer. How you use that computer varies drastically. The sole purpose of the cloud is to outsource pieces and parts of your environment and allow for dynamic changes. This is meant to give your organization more of a recurring cost (operational expense, or OpEx as the financially savvy like to call it) rather than big capital expenditure (CapEx).
But wait, can’t I have my own cloud, you ask? Yes, in fact, you can. If you have your own infrastructure that allows you to pull up resources on demand and service other parts of your organization in an organically expanding manner, you can have your own cloud. This is referred to as a “private” cloud, which we’ll talk about more in the next installment of this series.
What about putting all of your own equipment into a colocation facility (colo)? Is that the cloud? Well, kind of. What you’re really doing there is moving what is potentially your own private cloud (depending on what you have built) to another facility. This means that you don’t have to deal with environmentals anymore (power, cooling, security) but you still manage the server hardware, the networking, the storage, the server OS, the applications on top of it, connectivity back to your offices for your users, etc. Of course, you’re still managing everything for those users, too. So, yes, loosely interpreted, it is a cloud solution. You can always put your private cloud in a colocation facility, though.
A step further would be Hardware as a Service (HaaS). This allows you to pay a recurring cost for hardware, which in turn is fully managed by someone else. That hardware could be onsite in your office, in branch offices, or anywhere else. The HaaS provider commits to managing all of the hardware-based functions, sometimes the OS as well, and lets you use the rest of the system as needed. For example, you could get a Dell R730 as a HaaS and the provider would manage the warranty, hardware failures, upgrades, etc. while you were allowed to build your environment on top of it.
Next we have Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This is a model where the core infrastructure is provided for you. For example, in Azure you can get an environment where the networking, server hardware and virtualization is managed by Microsoft running in their datacenters. At this point, the networking hardware, server hardware, storage and virtualization is completely out of your control and managed by Microsoft. If you need more of any of it, they take care of expansion and growing the environment. You’re still responsible for managing the OS and applications from any form of patching standpoint.
The next step is Software as a Service (SaaS). In this model, 100 percent of the infrastructure to run an application is managed by the vendor — you simply put your data in and operate on it. They manage the physical hardware, networking, virtualization, OS, and applications and simply deliver the end results to you the end user. Think of this like Office 365 — you don’t have to know anything about Exchange, you just have to be able to give it your email and then connect clients to it.
There is another ‘as a Service’ you may have heard of: Platform as a Service (PaaS). PaaS is normally for software development. A fully hosted environment is provided with the platform (a CRM for example) and then any tools needed to fully customize or develop against that platform (customization tools for the CRM for example).
So, what about managed services? Technically on its own, it isn’t a cloud solution, but it often uses and overlaps with other as-a-Service offerings. For example, Mirazon’s managed services comes with a Datto backup solution as a HaaS — where we fully manage the hardware — along with the option of email hosted in Office 365 (SaaS), workloads in Azure through IaaS, and/or some workloads in a colocation facility. Mirazon would tie all of those different environments together and manage it all (as well as desktops) so that your entire IT infrastructure is outsourced and managed in such a way that you don’t have to deal with any of it.