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IaaS or PaaS on Microsoft Azure? The differences explained

As you are now completely familiar with the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform, we can move on to an important distinction. Read on for an introduction to the wonderful world of IaaS and PaaS (and no, they’re not Chinese dishes).

Anyone who isn’t quite sure what the cloud is can read all about it in in this blog post.

At the risk of becoming a little technical, let me briefly discuss IaaS and PaaS. Persevere, dear reader, it’s important and not at all difficult! ! :-)

First of all, let’s discuss the term “aaS”. It stands for “as a Service”. In other words: it is a prime example of the cloud. To illustrate: Microsoft offers its data centres as a service with Microsoft Azure. If we need a lot of computing power or infrastructure, our request for this is granted immediately and we are allocated more of these data centre services.

Next, I will explain the distinction between IaaS and PaaS. In both of these models, something is offered as a service.

IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service

In the case of IaaS (a.k.a. infrastructure as a service), Microsoft Azure offers completely virtual machines. As the client, we decide how many of these servers we want to use, as well as their capacity. With just one click, we can make them bigger (and therefore more expensive) or smaller (and therefore cheaper). We can even automate these changes. We can make servers smaller at night, for example, and bigger during office hours.

However, they remain servers or virtual machines. It is irrelevant to Microsoft which applications will ultimately run on these servers. As the client, this is all up to you. Microsoft does not offer “managed services” on these rolled-out servers. After all, Microsoft cannot know when its clients wish to ramp the number of machines up or down. That’s why Microsoft leaves the management of these virtual machines to its clients. The Reference takes care of this, as managed services for its clients. These include regular maintenance of the Windows Server operating system, configuring daily backups, configuring and updating anti-virus solutions, installing security patches etc.

PaaS or Platform as a Service

In the case of PaaS (a.k.a. platform as a service), Microsoft offers a complete platform on which clients can roll out their applications. Infrastructure is offered similarly to IaaS, but in contrast to IaaS no maintenance of the servers or operating systems is required. After all, Microsoft also offers the operating system (Windows Server, Linux, etc.) as a service.

In this case, the only thing The Reference needs to do for its clients is to implement the application that has been developed. And to scale it up or down (whether automatically or otherwise) in the same way as for IaaS. However, no management of virtual machines is involved here.

So, which of these solutions should you choose?

PaaS seems to have a head start in terms of offering a win-win situation. The unlimited infrastructure is available with no downtime and no managed services need to be implemented on the virtual servers: two major plus points in comparison to IaaS. So, why don’t we all migrate everything to PaaS and immediately take advantage of these benefits? What’s the catch?

To enable the use of a PaaS framework, an application must be built specifically on the PaaS framework or modified to suit this framework. Therefore, let us briefly discuss the various situations:

  • New software (custom solutions): this is often no more expensive or difficult than “traditional” software development. In this case, go for PaaS and enjoy the benefits.
  • Existing software (custom solutions): the migration complexity will depend on the size of the application. We will carry out a brief technical analysis or audit to see whether migration would be beneficial.
  • Commercial software: in the case of commercial software such as Sitecore or Umbraco, you are largely dependent on the supplier. A migration can only be considered if the supplier offers software that is compatible (or has been made compatible) with PaaS. However, you must remember that commercial software which is not compatible with PaaS from the outset must also undergo a migration. And migrations tend to be accompanied by bugs and incidents before the final product sees the light of day. We would not advise you to throw yourself into these kinds of scenarios without careful consideration. A migration can only be considered once the vendors have made their software 100% PaaS compatible (and can demonstrate this through genuine cases). Here too, we like to carry out an audit before starting the migration.

You should also remember that applications that were developed for a PaaS model are not easy to migrate back to “traditional virtual machine hosting” or IaaS. For some clients, this may prove an important parameter when deciding between PaaS and IaaS. It goes without saying that we provide our clients with detailed advice for each application.

Although IaaS is currently a more popular solution worldwide, we are certainly seeing a shift in the trend towards PaaS. We can only welcome this development.

 Gebruik van PaaS en IaaS

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