Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is one of the three main categories of cloud computing services along with software-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service. IaaS basically provides on demand infrastructure services such as hardware, storage, servers, computing power, OS, networking components, etc.
Before we get into how to choose a IaaS provider, let's try to understand why one should go for IaaS anyways, what are its benefits. Iaas has gained popularity because of the great flexibility it offers to customers in terms of resources, utilization and payment. A customer can choose what it is suitable for its requirements, it can also scale up and scale down based on its requirements and further pay for these services as they are utilized rather than upfront. Customers use today IaaS services for computation (analytics), application development, testing, storage, etc. In many cases an IaaS service provider actually becomes extension of an organization's own infrastructure.
Today, there are numerous players in the IaaS market, both large and small. Some large ones include Amazon, Microsoft, Google, HP, Joyent, Rackspace, etc. If you are looking for an IaaS provider and have so many vendors to choose from, it is best to follow certain guidelines before deciding on one. One may think going with the largest or most established might be the best, but it is not always the case. There are several things one should take care of here, let's look at what one should consider before choosing an IaaS provider.
How to choose an IaaS provider
Know what you need, as accurately as possible
This might sound a bit obvious but this is one of the most fundamental step of the whole process and defines how your next steps would be taken. When we say know your requirements, it means:
- Know why you want to go for IaaS and not use / build own infrastructure – what benefits you perceive by using IaaS. Note these benefits in as crystal clear and quantifiable manner as possible.
- What you expect from an IaaS provider – which service (of the many available) you would like to go for. Are you planning to use IaaS because you need extra computing power or because you need more storage etc. If you plan to use multiple infrastructure servives, is there any priority?
- Budget constraints : What is your budget in mind. It is good to have an idea of what you plan to spend as this can help short listing the options very quickly. Just make sure your goals are realistic and based on business and market realities.
- How often / how much you plan to use IaaS ? In many cases, the requirement of IaaS services peak up and then come down based on business cycle. It is good to get understanding of this too.
Note on computing requirements
In most cases when you will talk to IaaS vendors regarding your requirements, the answer will always be yes, they can do it. But that should not stop you from looking for precise requirements you have in mind to fulfil your aim. for example, which kind of prebuilt services they have? many vendors offer prebuilt databases services which can help valuable time and reduce frustration levels.
Further, as your computing requirements are unlikely to be constant, do get a feel of how smoothly these fluctuation can be handled. Will they be able to support your peak requirement with ease?
Storage and networking services
Do the cloud vendor support both block and object storage? having both is always an added advantage as then storage can be done based on the latency. Object storage can be used for storing large data such as multimedia, emails etc. while block storage for performance sensitive tasks.
It is also important to know that block storage is expensive as compared to object storage.
Databases and applications
It is always better to choose a provider where databases services are maintained by the vendor. In some cases the vendor may partner with other firms for this.
Similar is the case with app development services, IaaS vendors rely on partners for the same, unless the IaaS provider itself is also providing PaaS, e.g. Google, Joyent, Microsoft. If you are looking for any specific app dev aspects which these company provide then choosing them as your provider is best.
It should be noted that all IaaS providers keep adding app development services to compete in the space, thus it is possible that more than one IaaS provider will have the capabilities you need.
The pricing of IaaS vendors vary, it also depends upon your requirement (this is why accessing needs correctly is so important). Many IaaS providers provide volume and long term contract discounts, based on your requirements, one can consider them too.
Take trials very seriously
Leave aside any other point, if a customer can seriously exploit the trial provided by IaaS providers, one would be able to solve the mystery with ease. While running the trial makes sure to tweak the configuration, explore all features (useful and which may be useful in future), also use trial to accurately calculate pricing (based on peak loads).
One very important thing is to test the vendor with peak loads and see if there are problems. If there are instances of outage and performance dropdowns, you know this is not the right choice.
Summing it all up..
IaaS provides numerous benefits to firms of all sizes but to harness its benefits to fullest one needs to choose the right vendor. This is especially important as there are so many options available today to choose from. Our advice – understand your requirements well, do your market research properly and be cautious before finalizing.