These days where everything is offered up “as a service,” we run the risk of turning “as a service” into a meaningless marketing tag. Most everyday someone out there comes up with a new “as a service” offering forcing even the government to officiate guidelines for IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. In this blog, I’d like to explore the true meaning of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and see what it means for us as enterprises and developers.
What does IaaS mean?
As defined by the government, Infrastructure as a Service allows consumers to provision processing, storage, network, and other fundamental computing resources on demand. To these provisioned resources, consumers can deploy and run arbitrary software including operating systems and applications. Without having to manage or worry about the underlying cloud infrastructure, consumers can control operating systems, storage, their deployed applications, and even in some limited way control networking components like host firewalls.
Before Amazon’s EC2 offering, many hosting companies like Rackspace had already offered compute resources on demand. But what’s so different about the AWS offering that triggered a whole IT revolution?
Why’s Amazon IaaS Strategy Successful?
I believe the difference is rooted in Amazon’s service centered culture as revealed in Steve Yegge’s post and most recently in Brad Stone’s book, The Everything Store. Jeff Bezos’ crusade to be efficient has a tremendous impact on how individuals and teams communicate at Amazon where everything is an interface. Even meetings are conducted on a very well defined contract (no PowerPoint presentations but a 7-page write-up instead). So how does this approach make AWS the market leader in cloud computing? The answer lies in how Amazon’s internal organization is designed upon Service Oriented Architecture principles. At Amazon, every team communicates using well-defined interfaces that are abstracted from the implementation. As a result, today we’re all just one more team within Amazon—this is not just great customer support, but goes beyond where we’re all in the same boat as Amazon consuming the same service as them.
How to be Service Oriented Like Netflix?
With its service-oriented philosophy, AWS has liberated us from mundane infrastructure details and forced us to focus on what really matters. This trend could not be better represented than by Netflix, a company that realized the potential of shifting its focus to its core business so successfully that it’s become the canonical example of the potential of cloud computing.
In reality, it’s not important whether your strategy is IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS. What matters is that you’re able to change the mental model and operate as a service organization requires. The amount of commitment to this philosophy will determine the right strategy for you. The less you care about implementation details, the higher in the services stack is your insertion point. I personally believe the higher you start, the higher you reach.
What do Services in Context Mean for You?
At ElasticBox, we build the tools that allow enterprises and individuals to truly operate as a service. We help shift focus from implementing interfaces to collaborating with interfaces and from merely controlling interfaces to using them in context. This means anything can be a service whether it’s a platform or a low-level infrastructure resource, as long as its function is well defined through an interface, and it abstracts users from its implementation. How these services should be used is not determined by control, but by context ultimately powering the user to make their own decisions.