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Microsoft Azure – Cloud Hosting Offerings (PaaS vs IaaS)

Introduction

Darius

Darius

Darius Dumitrescu is a creative Senior CMS Consultant with in depth .NET knowledge, focused on Web Development and Architecture Design.


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Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure – Cloud Hosting Offerings (PaaS vs IaaS)

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The Big Picture

Even though Cloud services providers are in the market for quite some time now, most custom IT solutions in the enterprise area are still hosted on good old virtual machines.

It’s true, however, that nowadays the virtual machines that are hosted on major cloud solution providers have advanced scaling capabilities, both vertically and horizontally, but the crown jewel remains the dedicated services that they are offering.

Let’s dive a little bit more into the subject and let’s see the pros and cons of each hosting approach and why one might be preferred over the other in the enterprise area.

Now, because I work on a daily basis with Microsoft technologies, I will exemplify these concepts on Microsoft Azure. However, other vendors offer similar services.

What is PaaS or IaaS?

First of all, what does these acronyms represent?

IaaS is an abbreviation from Infrastructure as a Service. IaaS is represented by the instances of full server operating systems hosted on a virtual platform.

PaaS is an abbreviation from Platform as a Service. PaaS is essentially represented by a series of services that are usually available as applications on an IaaS environment. These services have limited control in terms of extensibility and customization but it’s quite easy to make them highly scalable.

Microsoft Azure – PaaS

The Azure offering covers services like: Websites, Web Roles (for resource extensive tasks), Storage, Database and others.

The benefits of using this kind of solution is that Microsoft takes the responsibility of applying security patches, updating drivers and hardware or the software versions of certain components. This ultimately results in minimal maintenance and configuration time for your hosting solution.

The drawback is that you pay more for these services that you would do when using a classic VM. And of course, you don’t have the freedom to highly customize the settings of these services.

NOTE: In case you choose to install Sitecore over Microsoft Azure PaaS, you get the benefit of being eligible for technical assistance from Sitecore. Sitecore support team doesn’t cover IaaS deployments.

Microsoft Azure – IaaS

The Azure offering in terms of IaaS is pretty vast. You have the possibility to choose between countless hardware configurations. You can also choose the region where the VMs are hosted in order to be closer to your customers.

The main benefit of using a VM is freedom. You are free to do anything you want to that machine. You are free to install any software you want but you are directly responsible on its performance or security.

Overall Comparison of both Approaches

As they both have some pros and cons, which could be the best option for your website? Below I have listed all of them that I can think of:

PaaS

PROS

  • Dynamic bi-directional vertical scalability (hardware).
  • Bi-directional horizontal scalability (web roles).
  • Additional extra features present on services that aren’t available to classic VMs (e.g.: geo-redundancy for databases)
  • Minimal maintenance activities.
  • Recommended hosting by Sitecore (They commit to provide support to PaaS solutions).
  • Possibility to automate deployment using Microsoft Azure tools.

CONS

  • Lack of total freedom. No control over the software installed.
  • Higher price.

IaaS

PROS

  • Dynamic bi-directional vertical scalability (hardware).
  • Full control over the server.
  • Lower price than PaaS.

CONS

  • No automation capabilities out of the box.
  • High maintenance activities.

So, by looking at the number of pros and cons, you might be tempted to believe that PaaS hosting would be ideal but I believe that is not always the case.
There are situations where the multitude of PaaS services seem like an overhead for not so demanding website projects.

As an important side note, you have as well the possibility to choose a hybrid solution. There aren’t limitations of choosing only one offering or another. You can combine them quite well. For example, you can host the website on IaaS and host the database on a service from PaaS offerings, providing you geo-redundancy services for your website data.

Darius

Darius

Darius Dumitrescu is a creative Senior CMS Consultant with in depth .NET knowledge, focused on Web Development and Architecture Design.

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