January 30, 2023

SaaS vs. PaaS vs. IaaS (Differences And Examples)


Every app that was ever developed requires some kind of computer to run. This computer can be a phone, tablet, laptop, etc. In the case of a web app, this computer is called the server.

The server needs an internet connection to send and receive information. It has to be powerful enough to handle all the users and have enough storage to save the data. Most importantly, it needs someone to manage and maintain this entire system, so it doesn't crash.

This is a lot of work just to run a simple app. And because of that, services like IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS exist. You can consider them as layers of abstraction that remove you from the nitty-gritty details of hardware architecture.

The highest layer of abstraction is SaaS, where you only need a username and password to start using the app. And somewhere in the middle is the low-code technology that allows you to efficiently build SaaS apps.

In this article, we will cover all the different layers, their differences, and the examples for each of them.

On-Premise vs. IaaS

As mentioned, you have to manage everything when it comes to on-premise solutions. This means all of the hardware and software are your sole responsibility.

You have to handle all of the unexpected situations and disruptions like power outages. Just because you lost power in your local area doesn't mean the entire world needs to lose access to your website or app.

It would be nice to have a spare power generator to prevent this situation. However, this results in very high costs considering you're just trying to publish a simple app.

IaaS (infrastructure as a service) is a solution to these problems. And companies who offer IaaS services can fix these problems at a scale that makes everything more cost-effective.

For example, an IaaS company only needs a single power generator, whether it has one or a hundred servers. And when other companies rent those servers out, they split the added cost of the power generator.

Power generators are just one example, but many things go into maintenance, such as replacing broken components, expanding memory capacity, adding air conditioning to keep the room temperature cool during summer months, etc.

IaaS Examples

The most prominent IaaS examples are Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and AWS. They allow you to rent servers - either virtual or dedicated.

A dedicated server is what you would consider a specific physical machine (computer). While the virtual server is not tied to any specific location. And this makes it easy to scale your servers' computing power and memory capacity.

Your only job is to set up servers, install the web app, distribute user requests evenly among them, and have enough computing resources.

The only drawback is that you still need a person (or a team) with technical expertise (DevOps) to manage these servers.

IaaS vs. PaaS

PaaS (platform as a service) is another layer up in abstraction and productivity. Unlike IaaS, you don't have to worry about managing any servers and no longer need DevOps.

With PaaS, your only concern is your app. The server infrastructure in the background automatically upscales and downscales for you. And you only pay for the resources your app consumes.

You no longer need a server expert and can just focus on developing and marketing your app.

PaaS Examples

The best example of PaaS is low-code technology. It is built on top of AWS (IaaS) and uses widely familiar technologies like JavaScript, MySQL, GraphQL, etc.

Some of the benefits of low-code:

And best of all, it is completely customizable. This means you have no restrictions with low-code and can build everything you normally would with regular programming.

PaaS vs. SaaS

SaaS (software as a service) is the highest layer of abstraction. All you need are your credentials and an internet connection, and you're ready to go.

The best part of SaaS apps is they are accessible through a browser. This means your app is available on any internet-connected device.

You don't have to install, update, or manage a SaaS app. It is the simplest and most cost-effective way to get a software tool in your hands.

However, some SaaS apps only allow you to be the software's end user. You cannot build other apps with it. For that, you need to go to the previous layer where we discussed PaaS and low-code.

SaaS Examples

The most widely recognized example of SaaS is Canva (design creating software). You just log in from any device, and you can start working.

Also, to see how SaaS can be built with PaaS, check out SaaS examples built with low-code technology.

This will give you some idea of what is possible and how you can quickly go from idea to realization if you use low-code PaaS technology.

To Sum It Up

The entire internet infrastructure is built in layers. The first layer contains raw computers (servers). 20-30 years ago, you had to rely on DIY server architecture, but that was expensive and inefficient.

Next came IaaS infrastructure, which had only one job - to manage the hardware for you. There is still server management involved, just not hardware management.

Another layer above it is PaaS platforms that allow you to entirely forget about the servers and just focus on the app development. This is where low-code technology fits in.

And lastly, we have SaaS apps that you just log into and use - no installation, no updates. Everything is automatically done for you.

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