The Expanding Definition of Infrastructure as a Service

Much gets lumped together under the ubiquitous cloud category, but it may be time to start separating out infrastructure services from more self-service cloud offerings. Derrick Harris at GigaOM starts to make this argument by separating managed hosting providers from cloud companies. The primary difference he cites is the customer support angle. Managed hosting providers use SLAs and are services-driven, while cloud providers offer pooled computing resources, but are more self-service oriented.

The reason for separating IaaS from cloud is to create two different sets of criteria for evaluation. This may be more important than ever now as the scope of IaaS continues to grow. Web hosting is only one type of managed infrastructure business. Beyond hosting there’s a whole other realm of services that combine infrastructure and support that are growing in popularity. These include not only distributed storage services, but, increasingly, services that make use of a scalable, distributed platform that can only exist with a broad footprint of infrastructure resources. Web acceleration is one example, but there are others like targeted ad insertion, and sophisticated digital rights management that need infrastructure-based support services and have huge potential to disrupt today’s online industries. With these types of applications, it’s often not just about storage and computing capacity, but how intelligently these networked resources can be made to perform.

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