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Other Cloud Layers

Cloud layers operate at a higher level of abstraction than IaaS, including Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), and Business as a Service (BaaS). In its definition of cloud computing, NIST recognizes three of these layers: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Figure 1.12 illustrates this concept of different layers of cloud computing.

Figure 1.12

Figure 1.12. Cloud platform layers

Infrastructure as a Service is a term for services that provide a model for dynamically allocating infrastructure and software, starting with an OS, on that infrastructure. Platform as a Service describes concrete services used in the execution of an application or higher-level service. The services provide some generalized and reusable capability to their software consumer and are thus a “platform” service being consumed. They bring their own interface and programming model for the consumer to use, along with their own API, data, messaging, queueing, and so on.

If a platform service is hosted by an infrastructure service provider, the IaaS API is likely used as part of the process to instantiate and access the platform service, but it is a separate concept.

To complete the terminology, Software as a Service is typically a self-sufficient software solution to a consumer need. Typically, this is a tool or business application with on-demand, turn-key characteristics.

If a software service leverages a platform service, it normally does so transparently. If the software service is hosted by an infrastructure service provider, the IaaS application programming interface can be used as part of the process to instantiate and access the software service.

If you look at the service stack from the top down, you can see some of the value the other layers provide. At the very top are business services such as Dunn and Bradstreet, which provides analysis and insight into companies that you might potentially do business with. Other examples of business services are credit reporting and banking. Providing business services such as these requires data stores for storing data. However, a relational database by itself is not sufficient: The data retrieval and storage methods must be integrated into programs that can provide user interfaces for people can use. Relational databases also need to be maintained by database administrators who archive and back up data. This is where Platform as a Service comes in. Platform as a Service provides all the services that enable systems to run by themselves, including scaling, failover, performance tuning, and data retrieval. For example, the Salesforce Force.com platform provides a data store where your programs can store and retrieve data without you ever needing to worry about database or system administration tasks. It also provides a web site with graphical tools for defining and customizing data objects. IBM Workload Deployer is another Platform as a Service that runs on an infrastructure as a service cloud but is aware of the different software running on individual virtual machines; it can perform functions such as elastic scaling of application server clusters.

With Platform as a Service, you still need to write a program that enables a user to interact with it via a graphical user interface. If you do not like that idea, you can use Software as a Service. Salesforce.com enables enterprises to use a customer relationship management (CRM) system without having to do any programming or software installation. Its web site also supports graphical tools for customizing menus, data entry forms, and reports. It works great if you all you need to do is create, retrieve, update, and delete data or use a predefined service, such as email. If you need to do more than that, you need to drop down to the Platform as a Service level.

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