The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Telco Transformation - Part 2
From Hardware to Services
In my previous I gave a little bit of background about the telco transformation and my intention to discuss some of the basic tenants of virtualization and cloudification of networking. In this blog, I will delve further into the topics of virtualization, specifically the subjects of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS.
From CDs to SaaS (Software as a Service)
The simplest transformation for most of us was from CDs to SaaS model – where now instead of going to a store and buying a ‘product’ with the latest application we need (like Office, or the latest game) we can go online and download or access the latest software. The product became a ‘service’ with the developers maintaining it for their customers. So in effect the SaaS model provided virtual access to the former ‘hard, locally housed’ product. Today, you can buy Office365, or Adobe Online as a SaaS model – without moving from you chair.
The benefits of moving to a SaaS model vary, but some are glaringly obvious:
- For the developer – this new business model enables them to charge less, but for a longer period of time – lowering the barrier of entry and increasing popularity
- For the user – developer will maintain the software/application for you. Ensures you have the latest version/always up to date. Also cloud access from anywhere, at any time
Alright so SaaS is an easy one that we all run into in our daily lives, but what is this IaaS model?
IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
Before I answer, a bit of an explanation: Software doesn’t run on thin air, but rather requires a certain foundation of infrastructure in order to run. The types of elements you need often included servers, operating systems, and language tool kits. All of these, just like software and applications can be virtualized. Instead of buying a server, you can lease or rent some space on a virtual server or virtual machine.
When people talk about IaaS – infrastructure as a service – most of us are talking about servers and storage. Companies like Amazon (EC2) and Microsoft (Azure), enable people to make use of virtual server, storage and compute capacity on their mega servers. However, since the inception of the IaaS model, vendors have gone on to offer some value added tools like firewalls and security, networking services and even load balancing.
The benefits of IaaS model also include:
- For the vendor – ability to make extra money on unutilized compute resources (which did not exist before) opening up new markets and opportunities
- For the customer – always up-to-date and maintained by vendor, agility in increasing/decreasing capacity according to need, value added tools.
Of course there are big benefits to working with an IaaS model, but compute capacity and storage do not always include OS nor language/development tools. And for any application to work that part of the stack is also a requirement.
The PaaS (Platform as a Service)
PaaS, is the youngest of the three concepts and as such the least understood. As opposed to the SaaS which turns the software and apps into a consumable service, and the IaaS which virtualizes the servers and storage aspects of the stack, the PaaS virtualizes the OS and language/development frameworks which enable the fulfilment and maintenance of applications and software.
Azure and Amazon web services are good examples of a platform as a service. Android/iOS + SDK are additional examples which we all know. In theory, platforms as a service enable developers a seamless environment from which to launch and manage their software. In effect, they often do much, much more.
There are several reasons to use PaaS at the enterprise level:
- Time to market - Rapid development and deployment
- Scale - Sizing is always difficult to predict. With a PaaS, on the fly scaling is possible.
- Cloud-native - Built for cloud from very beginning (build with cloud awareness)
- Automation and robotization of cloud infrastructure (also called “Fabric Controller”)
- Stability - Provides erosion resistance
Today there are combinations of the concepts above, as well as stand-alone options. In my next blog we will discuss the PaaS a bit more in depth and talk a little more about the decision making factors when choosing a PaaS.