A Guide to the Cloud Computing Pyramid: IaaS, PaaS, & SaaS

A Guide to the Cloud Computing Pyramid

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) are the three most common versions of cloud computing, also referred to as layers of the cloud computing pyramid. Although we use cloud computing services a lot in today’s world, many people don’t have a clear picture of its structure in mind.

The bottom layer of the pyramid is the IaaS that is controlled by the networking architects, PasS is the mid-layer that is controlled by the application developers, and the top layer known as the SaaS is for the end-users.

To make better business decisions, you need to understand the key differences between all these different types of cloud computing technologies. But before jumping to that section, let’s first understand what cloud computing actually is.

Cloud Computing

In simple words, cloud computing means managing your data (storing and accessing) and programs over the internet instead of your computer’s hard drive or external HDD. Cloud is used just as a metaphor for the internet. Compared to the traditional methods of managing data, cloud computing offers a lot more flexibility, speed, productivity, performance, and reliability.

Following are a few examples that cloud computing services can be used for:

  • Data analysis
  • On-demand software delivery
  • Cloud-native app development and testing
  • Data storage, backup, and recovery
  • Audio/video streaming
  • Embedded intelligence

With the help of cloud computing, businesses can scale elastically. For example, a specific amount of storage bandwidth and computing power can be delivered as per the requirements. Also, this allows small to medium businesses to take advantage of modern technologies without spending too much on building their own dedicated infrastructure. In addition to this, they don’t even have to do all the management of data as the cloud service provider is responsible for providing this facility.

cloud computing

Advantages of Cloud Computing

  • Flexibility
  • Reliability
  • Top-notch performance
  • High speed
  • Instant access from anywhere
  • No infrastructure or installation cost
  • Disaster recovery
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Automatic security and feature updates
  • It is the service provider’s duty to take care of all the maintenance and other aspects that make cloud computing reliable for you.

Types of Cloud Computing by Deployment

Not all the clouds are the same, and there is no one-size-fits-all type of cloud computing that is right for everyone. Several different types, models, and services have evolved to help businesses and individuals by offering the right solution according to their needs. Following are the three ways to deploy cloud services:

1. Public Cloud

As the name indicates, this type of cloud computing is used by the general public. These clouds are owned and operated by third-party service providers that offer their computing resources, such as servers and storage over the internet. Anyone with a high-tech server and computing power can rent their system to other companies or individuals to use as a cloud.

A public cloud is shared among several users who have subscribed to the service by paying a premium. Since the resources are shared, public clouds make a cost-effective choice for small businesses and individuals.

2. Private Cloud

A private cloud is owned by a single business or organization, and only they can use all the cloud computing resources. In most cases, a private cloud is physically located on the company or organization’s on-site datacenter. In other cases, some companies pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud.

3. Hybrid Cloud

Combine the features of a private and public cloud, and the result will be a hybrid cloud. Allowing your data and applications to move between public and private clouds, a hybrid cloud gives your business more flexibility and better deployment options. In addition to this, a hybrid cloud can also help optimize your existing security, infrastructure, and compliance.

Types of Cloud Computing by Services

There are quite a lot of services available when it comes to cloud computing. However, we will only discuss the core ones based on which most other services are offered.

1. SaaS (Software as a Service)

SaaS is the topmost layer of the Cloud Computing Pyramid. It is a method of delivering software applications over the internet to the end-users, on-demand or on a subscription basis. With Software as a Service, cloud service providers host and manage the software applications along with the underlying infrastructure. For example, they are responsible for software updates and security patching. End-users connect to the application over the internet typically via a web browser on their PC, tablet, or phone.

Since there is no need for any kind of local installation or maintenance, businesses and individuals can get started with SaaS apps in no time and scale their functionalities as they grow. Some popular examples of SaaS include Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, and Google Apps.

2. PaaS (Platform as a Service)

The mid-layer of the Cloud Computing Pyramid, Platform as a Service, is a cloud computing service that provides an on-demand environment for testing, developing, delivering and managing software apps. With PaaS, developers can quickly create web or mobile applications without worrying about managing or setting up the existing infrastructure of servers, storage, network, and databases required for the development.

Developers can easily access the required resources remotely in order to speed up the development process, without having to purchase any expensive any hardware or software outright. The availability of pre-programmed applications saves users from coding from scratch, allowing them to make their products market-ready within no time.

Server-less computing is one of the terms that is used side by side with Platform as a Service. It allows users to build app functionality without investing much time in managing the servers and infrastructure that are essentially required. Server-less computing architectures are highly scalable and event-driven. They only use resources when they are required to do so, especially when a specific function or trigger occurs.

Some top examples of PaaS providers include AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Apache Stratos, Microsoft Azure, and Google App Engine.

3. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a Service is the foundation of cloud-based services, which is also the bottom layer of the Cloud Computing Pyramid. With IaaS, you rent IT infrastructures from cloud service providers on a pay-as-you-go basis. The infrastructure that you can rent includes virtual machines, servers, networks, storage, and operating systems.

Some popular examples of IaaS include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Rackspace, CISCO Metacloud, and Google Compute Engine (GCE). These providers provide all the necessary infrastructure to the businesses and organizations that they need to run their applications.

The users using IaaS can also customize the resources according to their requirements. For example, they can install and manage different types of software, including OS, middleware, applications, and other development tools.

Opting for IaaS is an excellent option for small to medium businesses that don’t want to invest too much money and time in setting up and maintaining the infrastructure. This smart move allows them to focus more on their business instead of all the technicalities. Moreover, protection against cyber-attacks and security updates is also the responsibility of the service providers.

4. FaaS (Function as a Service)

Function as a Service is just another abstraction layer over PaaS. It allows the developers to insulate and protect their code from what’s below it. This step saves them from the hassle of managing different things, such as virtual machines, app runtimes, and containers.


Cloud Computing Pyramid is quite straightforward and easy to understand. Most people who don’t know the technology behind cloud computing usually associate it with sending emails, storing data, and streaming videos. Whereas, the world of cloud computing is much broader than that. Before opting for cloud computing, small and medium businesses need to understand the underlying technologies first.

With the help of cloud computing, you can take your business or startup to the next level and make it more competitive. All you need to do is choose the right pyramid layer and start working on it.