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SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, FaaS, XaaS - what's behind them

These are terms from cloud computing. We explain what SaaS, PaaS and the like are all about.


SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, FaaS, XaaS - Who still understands what it's all about?

On-demand services are revolutionizing the software market. We shed light on what lies behind the "as-a-service" abbreviations.

A digital revolution has quietly taken place in recent years. From infrastructure to software, on the client and server side. We are talking about "as-a-service". Functions and applications are no longer provided on the user's side, but via the Internet. Instead of the software CD, there is software-as-a-service. Instead of the server cabinet in the basement, the required server capacity is provided flexibly according to individual needs as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

With the ever-growing possibilities that the Internet offers for business and private users, the range of "aaS" models is also expanding. What would have been unthinkable a few years ago in view of the lack of computing power and slow internet speeds is already common practice today. The CRM ecosystem from Salesforce, marketing automation via Hubspot or the Munich-based HR unicorn Personio are the best examples of the unprecedented triumph of a new business model.

Everything as a Service - what's behind the abbreviations?

The origins of as-a-service lie in cloud computing, which made the structural components of the "computer cloud" available on demand over the network. This model allows a high degree of flexibility, which was quickly adapted for other fields of application.

Today, there are a large number of Internet-based on-demand services, and new subgroups such as desktop, backend or mobility-as-a-service are being added virtually every week. The term Everything-as-a-Service, or XaaS for short, sums up this constantly growing family.

The individual XaaS models differ primarily in the extent of their own control and responsibility over the components. We look at the most important as-a-service approaches.

Software as a Service

What is SaaS?

Everyone has probably heard the term Software-as-a-Service. In the SaaS approach, software is made available via the Internet. What sounds banal has fundamentally changed the way we deal with software in both our private and business lives. There is no need to install standalone software, incompatibilities are avoided (e.g. between operating system and software version) and manual updates are no longer necessary. Browser-based SaaS software runs on any operating system on which the browser is running.

Software-as-a-Service offers the most convenience. The entire responsibility and control over the software lies with the provider. In return, the user receives a ready-made, immediately usable application.

The availability of software-as-a-service is disproportionately higher than for conventionally purchased software due to the Internet-based approach. Accordingly, this opens up a large market for SaaS providers, both private and business.

 Examples of SaaS applications are

  • Google Workspace (work and productivity software suite)

  • Salesforce (CRM)

  • Hubspot (CRM)

  • Dropbox (cloud storage)

  • Personio (Human Resources)

  • Slack (messaging)

  • Netflix (streaming)

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Platform as a Service

What is PaaS?

With Platform-as-a-Service, or PaaS for short, a runtime environment is made available over the network and on-demand. The platform contains all the necessary components to run software on it. Server, storage, virtualization and operating system are integrated here on a turnkey basis.

Development can be started immediately on the operating system provided, which enables faster deployment. Internal system administration is no longer required.

Most providers of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (see next section) also offer PaaS solutions. For companies, the decision is therefore often based on the existing infrastructure.

Examples of PaaS providers include:

  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk

  • Microsoft Azure PaaS

  • SAP Cloud Platform

  • Google App Engine

  • Magento Commerce Cloud

  • Heroku


What is IaaS?

Infrastructure-as-a-Service, also known as Infrastructure Cloud Services or IaaS for short, refers to the model of providing computer infrastructure on demand. Network technology, servers, storage and virtualization are purchased from a single provider. The computer capacity provided via IaaS can be adapted more easily than would be possible with the company's own hardware, which significantly simplifies the scaling of the infrastructure. In addition, costs for maintaining the company's own servers can be saved.

All other elements of a cloud-based application are built on the IaaS base. The user has responsibility over the operating system, runtime environment, data processing and implemented software.

Infrastructure as a Service
Today, infrastructure is offered as a service

The responsibility for the functionality of the infrastructure lies with the IaaS provider.

The difference between user-operated infrastructure and Infrastructure-as-a-Service is the most visible. IaaS replaces the physical server and thus the element that, at least visually, is inseparably associated with software development and IT in the broader sense. From a technical perspective, of course, the infrastructure also exists in the IaaS model, but it is provided flexibly over the network.

 Examples of IaaS providers include:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)

  • Microsoft Azure

  • Google Cloud Infrastructure

  • IBM Cloud

  • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure


What is FaaS?

Feature-as-a-Service refers to the provision of functionalities of an application via the Internet. With the FaaS approach, elements from IaaS, PaaS and SaaS are implemented as required. This results in great flexibility in the development of web applications.

Functions such as chat or user management can be integrated as preconfigured modules and adapted to individual needs instead of developing them from scratch. Frontend, backend and database functions can be individualized as needed. External services such as SAP S4/HANA or Salesforce can be with data connectors.

Find out more about Feature-as-a-Service and how ROQ is revolutionizing web app development with the FaaS approach.

 The advantages of Feature-as-a-Service at a glance

  • Saves development time without sacrificing functionality

  • Shorter time-to-market, faster return-on-investment

  • Lower risk and at the same time higher quality through the use of ready-made, proven functions and infrastructure

  • Flexibility and scalability, as it is built on a clean and well-designed architecture

  • ...without having to compromise on data sovereignty or code ownership.

Further XaaS approaches

In addition to the as-a-service cornerstones of cloud computing, a number of other XaaS approaches have become established. Not all of them are equally widespread, and many specialize in specific areas. What they all have in common is that they outsource integral functions and make them available as an on-demand model, which usually saves administration or development effort - or simply simplifies processes.

Backend as a Service

Backend-as-a-Service and mobile-Backend-as-a-Service, or BaaS and mBaaS for short, are a special form of cloud computing. BaaS provides all backend functions as a service. Based on the prefabricated backend, front-end development can be started immediately. BaaS providers are, for example, AWS Amplify or Firebase.

Computing as a Service

The computing-as-a-service approach provides computing power on demand. This is particularly relevant for data-intensive computing and high-performance computing (DICaaS and HPCaaS). Scientific users use on-demand computing, for example, for complex modeling processes or extensive data processing.

Database as a Service

Instead of managing the databases yourself, with DBaaS databases are provided via the Internet. The provider takes care of the IT infrastructure and its administration. Users access the database via the network. Accordingly, this connection must be well secured. DBaaS is offered by all common cloud computing suites such as Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, among others.

Desktop as a Service

Desktop-as-a-Service ("DaaS") makes it possible to provide the desktop via a network connection. The DaaS model is worthwhile, for example, for companies that administer an extensive catalog of employee computers - especially if they work in a home office, for example. Via DaaS, software and updates, among other things, can be easily installed remotely. Established providers include Microsoft (Virtual Desktop), Amazon (WorkSpaces) and Citrix.

Gaming as a Service

Gaming is rather far away from business users' horizons. However, GaaS impressively demonstrates what is possible today with cloud computing. Also known as cloud gaming, the model allows users to interact with software hosted entirely in the cloud without any time delay. As with the DaaS approach, there is no need for dedicated hardware on the user side, without sacrificing performance. At most, the potential bottleneck is the Internet connection.

XaaS brings benefits for companies and users

The cornucopia of on-demand services offers the right solutions for every use case. They have also long since found their way into companies, often as a combination of IaaS and various SaaS services. With the expansion of fiber optic technology and new mobile communications standards such as 5G, new digital opportunities are constantly opening up for companies.

With the on-demand model, a part of the control and responsibility - of varying size depending on the use case - must be relinquished. For business users, however, XaaS (Everything-as-a-Service) also brings tangible benefits. Instead of booking software or infrastructure as one-time capital expenditures, the costs for XaaS services can be easily calculated as operating costs. Maintenance and repair can be reduced or outsourced entirely. Models such as Feature-as-a-Service save resources in application development while allowing the greatest possible flexibility. This opens up entirely new business areas.

The term "as a service" has lost some of its sharpness and is no longer exclusively associated with cloud computing. But cloud solutions have long since become an indispensable part of our private and business lives. And they will continue to have a decisive impact on everyday digital life in the future.

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