What are the different cloud models and service types?

Natasha Ong
This is some text inside of a div block.
4 min read

In a nutshell:

Cloud models = where your cloud  lives and who can use it.  

Public Cloud is like a digital playground for everyone, where cloud services (like Amazon S3) are available to all.
Private Cloud is your secret cloud garden with high control and security, used exclusively by a single entity.
Hybrid Cloud combines the best of both worlds, blending public and private clouds for flexibility and added security.

Cloud service types determine the level of control and management the customer gets.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is like renting cloud-based hardware while you have control over software and configurations.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is your shortcut to app development, where the cloud provider manages infrastructure, OS, and more.
Software as a Service (SaaS) is like renting complete applications; no technical expertise needed, just enjoy the software.

So we've learnt that cloud is different from running your computing on-premise, but did you know there are different models and service types with the cloud too?

Cloud models and service types exist because different people have different needs. Some want more control, while others want more convenience, so there are different types of clouds and services to match those needs.

What are cloud models?

There are three primary cloud models: private, public, and hybrid.

Public Cloud

Public clouds are built, operated, and maintained by third-party providers (like Amazon offering AWS), renting out cloud services to the public over the public internet. They are known for their wide availability - anyone that wants to use public cloud services, can use it.

Example AWS products and services:

  • The AWS Management Console, Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, and all kinds of services are available for anyone to use.

Private Cloud

The private cloud is a cloud that's used by a single entity. Services can be delivered over the internet, but they're typically delivered over private network or connections! This means the big differences between the public and private clouds are the level of control, security and customisation.

The private cloud is a tricky one, because when someone says a company is using the private cloud, it can mean one of two things:

  1. Traditional private cloud: In a traditional private cloud, organisations do invest in and manage their hardware and infrastructure. In some cases, they also handle the associated hardware and maintenance costs. BUT these data centres may not be located in the organisation's premises - they might rent or own dedicated data centre space with a cloud provider (i.e. AWS might rent out entire parts of their data centre so the servers are fully dedicated to one single company). That makes it different from an on-premise setup, where data centres are always located within the company's physical facilities.
  1. Virtual private cloud: Some organisations choose to create a private cloud using services from a public cloud provider. They don't invest in physical hardware or the infrastructure (unlike the traditional private cloud), but benefit from the isolation and control that a private cloud offers. This is the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud!

Example AWS products and services:

  • AWS Virtual Private Cloud helps you create a private cloud environment in the wide world of AWS cloud.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid clouds integrate both public and private cloud environments, allowing them to work together. This setup can handle temporary surges in demand by leveraging public cloud resources. It also gives us flexibility in choosing which services to keep in the public cloud and which to put in the private cloud, adding an extra layer of security.

Here's a quick overview of key differences between cloud models:

Example AWS products and services:

  1. AWS Outposts is a fully managed service that extends the AWS cloud infrastructure to your on-premise location. Your on-premise location will get a consistent and seamless hybrid cloud experience, with access to native AWS services like EC2, RDS and S3.
  2. AWS Storage Gateway is a hybrid cloud storage service that connects your on-premises applications to AWS cloud storage.

Bonus: Multi-cloud

In a multi-cloud scenario, organisations use multiple public cloud providers (e.g. Azure, Google Cloud Platform).

  • This approach might involve selecting different features from different providers or migrating from one provider to another.
  • In a multi-cloud environment, managing resources and security across two or more cloud providers becomes crucial.

What are cloud service types?

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

IaaS is a cloud service type where the cloud provider handles hardware maintenance and network connectivity, while you take charge of everything else, including operating system installation, network and database and storage configuration, and more. This makes IaaS the most flexible category out of the three, and gives you the maximum amount of control too.

Common scenarios include:

  • Lift-and-shift migration: Companies usually start their journey into the cloud by using IaaS services to replicating their on-premises setups in the cloud. They're running the same things, but everything is running on IaaS infrastructure now.

For example:

  • Amazon EC2 provide virtualised computing resources where you install and manage the operating systems, applications, and configurations. This IaaS offering offers complete control over your virtualised infrastructure.
  • S3 provides scalable and reliable storage infrastructure in the cloud, which developers and businesses use to build their own applications and services on top.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS falls between renting data centre space (IaaS) and using a fully deployed solution (SaaS). Here, the cloud provider manages the infrastructure, operating systems, middleware, and more, so you can focus on developing applications. No need to worry about the licensing* or patching for operating systems (OS) and databases (phew)!

*Licensing = a permission slip for using certain software. It's an agreement between you and the software provider that outlines the terms and conditions for its use. e.g. when you subscribe to Netflix, you're essentially obtaining a license to use Netflix on a recurring basis, usually under specific terms and conditions. Companies often license for database (e.g. Oracle) and OS (e.g. Microsoft Windows Server) software.

Common scenarios include:

  • Development framework: Developers use PaaS to build cloud-based applications with built-in components. Cloud features like scalability, high-availability, and multi-tenant capability* are included, reducing the coding work for developers.
  • Analytics or business intelligence: PaaS services let companies mine their data, find insights and patterns and make better decisions.
*Multi-tenant capability = the platform lets multiple users ('tenants') share the same underlying infrastructure and resources while keeping their data and applications separate and secure. This lets different people run their software on the same platform without interfering with each other, saving on costs.

For example:

  1. AWS Elastic Beanstalk is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering that simplifies app deployment, management, and scaling. Developers can focus on their code and applications while AWS handles the underlying infrastructure, including the OS and databases, making it a PaaS service.
  2. AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service. It enables developers to run code in response to events without provisioning or managing servers. With Lambda, developers can focus solely on their code, and AWS automatically takes care of the underlying infrastructure.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is the most complete cloud service, where you rent fully developed applications like email, financial software, and messaging tools. It's easy to set up as you don't need extensive technical expertise, but it's also the least flexible.

Common scenarios include:

  • Email and messaging: Using cloud-based services for communication, like Gmail or Facebook Messenger.
  • Business productivity applications: Tools for better work efficiency, like Slack or Microsoft Office 365.
  • Finance and expense tracking: Managing financial data with ease, like Xero.

Here is a quick overview of the key differences between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS:

And that's a wrap!

Do you find the different cloud models and cloud service types a little similar?

It can be quite difficult to tell the difference between them. For example, what's the difference between a private cloud and IaaS? It sounds like they're both all about letting the cloud provider handle the hardware, while you handle everything else.

To put it simply, service types are about how you use the cloud, and cloud models are about where your cloud stuff lives and who gets to play with it. You can mix and match these to create the perfect cloud setup for your needs.

Cloud service types (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) are like different flavours of how you use the cloud. They determine what you're responsible for and what the cloud provider takes care of.

  • With IaaS, you're in charge of a lot, like setting up the computer's operating system and software.
  • PaaS makes things easier because the cloud provider handles more of the technical stuff, like the operating system and tools for making apps.
  • SaaS is the easiest; you just use a complete app without worrying about anything technical.

On the other hand, cloud deployment models (private, public, hybrid) are about where your cloud stuff lives and who can use it.

  • Private cloud is like having your own secret cloud that only your company uses.
  • Public cloud is like a big shared playground in the internet where anyone can use the swings and slides.
  • Hybrid cloud is a mix of both, so some of your stuff is on your private playground, and some are on the shared one.

An extra for the curious

So if you're wondering how different cloud service types and different cloud models might work together, here are a few example use cases: