Online computing drumbeats can be deafening. Everyone seems to be talking about it, discussing it and advocating it. All kinds of online computing services seem to be on offer and the buzz around these services can be very confusing.

However, there are only three kinds of online cloud computing services being offered:

  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) and
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

You need to know how you can leverage these services to deliver a large enterprise infrastructure to a small enterprise!

Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides a platform for customer applications. For instance, Microsoft, Force.com or Google provide platforms on which enterprises can run their custom applications using hired platform services in the cloud.

Software as a Service (SaaS) offers access to applications in the cloud. Enterprises do not have to build applications or purchase licenses for applications that are installed on their systems. They just buy the right to use the application in the cloud. For instance, Salesforce.com provides secure access to its proprietary Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application, to customers over the Internet.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) leverages the power of scalable infrastructure for small enterprises. The enterprise can run entire data center applications stacks using infrastructure in the cloud. Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud is an example of how cloud infrastructures can be used by small enterprises to their advantage.

While PaaS and IaaS are less frequently used, SaaS has a very large customer base. A number of mature SaaS options are available such as storage as a service, security as a service, project planning as a service, system management as a service, or network as a service. These services are sometimes packaged together or made discretely available in the cloud. Customizations and permutations and combinations of services can also be obtained on demand for enterprise uses.

The bottom line is that all these options have to be evaluated in the context of each individual enterprise and its business needs and risk tolerance along with its ability to verify provider security. The challenge will lie in its capacity to integrate cloud service deployments into business strategies and in ensuring that the strategy in no way compromises the privacy, security and the performance levels of the organization.