Everything as a service (XaaS): The difference between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS

The recent years saw a boom in the cloud computing industry, with an astounding amount of companies of all sizes and domains moving to the cloud. The trend is likely to continue, with 83% of enterprise IT workloads becoming cloud-based by the end of 2020, according to Forbes, and the global size of the cloud market reaching $832.1 billion by 2025.

Such growth is determined by the galloping adoption of Everything-as-a-service (XaaS) in its varied forms, with IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS being the most demanded ones. Every business that chose a cloud-based infrastructure over a time-consuming and costly on-premises one, a development platform, or a software solution, appreciated the increased business efficiency and decreased costs coming as a result.

If you're also planning to get these business benefits by moving your business to the cloud, we suggest exploring the concept of Everything-as-a-service (XaaS), what service models it entails, their main differences, and the use-cases we outline below.

What is XaaS?

XaaS, or Everything-as-a-service, is the term that implies delivering of services, tools, and software products to users over the internet. The main benefits of XaaS are better cost management due to "pay as you go" pricing that requires no prior investment, scalability of the cloud services and products, and streamlined business workflows. As for the downsides, possible downtimes stem from the reliability of the internet connection as well as performance and security issues.

There are numerous XaaS models, but the main three are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Take a closer look.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS: How are they different?

The core difference between the key XaaS models IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS is that they imply renting infrastructure, development platforms, and software solutions accordingly.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

IaaS, or Infrastructure as a Service, is the fundamental layer of cloud computing that involves providing customers with cloud-based infrastructure resources for managing networks, servers, operating systems, and data storage. These services can be accessed via API (Application Programming Interface), which gives customers control over the entire infrastructure without having to buy or maintain it on-site. IaaS allows customers to purchase additional resources on-demand, based upon the company's changing business needs, which makes this model a top choice for those who value cost-efficiency and scalability.

IaaS is used by companies of all sizes, from startups to enterprises. Large-scale companies choose it because they wish to cut down on infrastructure costs, while the startups pick IaaS to avoid maintaining their entire infrastructure physically and still have complete control over enterprise applications.

The main IaaS advantages include:

  • Flexibility and scalability
  • Increased control of the IaaS customers over the infrastructure
  • Cost-efficiency
  • Support for disaster recovery and business continuity

The most notable IaaS providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine (GCE), Digital Ocean, and Rackspace Open Cloud.

PaaS stands for Platform as a Service and means cloud-based services that developers use for building custom applications, delivered over the internet. Using PaaS, developers can concentrate on app development, as they're unburdened from the issues with storage, software updates, and operation systems. PaaS facilitates the development process when a few developers work on the same project, or when there's a need to involve another vendor. Also, it helps to build and deploy custom apps quicker, with a variety of tools in the developer's toolset.

The main PaaS advantages include:

  • Rapid prototyping, development, and deployment
  • Quicker time-to-market
  • Reduced development costs
  • Scalability
  • Cross-platform development

Among the PaaS providers are Google App Engine, Salesforce Lightning Platform, and Red Hat OpenShift.

SaaS, or Software as a service, refers to the cloud-based software that's hosted online and accessible by users via the internet.

The SaaS applications are extremely easy to use, as they're accessed via customers' web browsers and don't require any installation. Moreover, users aren't responsible for the upgrading and managing of the SaaS applications, as these things are covered by vendors. SaaS vendors provide comprehensive application maintenance and support, so customers get streamlined business processes and have any technical issue addressed as soon as it arises.

The main SaaS advantages are:

  • No need to install, configure, and manage software
  • Increased applications' accessibility (web and mobile)
  • Flexible payment models (e.g., per user-per month subscription)
  • Automated upgrades

The list of prominent SaaS providers includes Google, Salesforce, Dropbox, and Atlassian.

Top 3 XaaS models in brief

Here's an outline of the major differences between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS models:

The major differences between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS models

Other XaaS models

Besides IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, there's a multitude of other XaaS models on the market, including the following.

Database as a service (DbaaS) implies providing access to a database (either relational or non-relational) delivered as a private cloud service, with no need for its installation, configuration, upgrade, and management. Most of these tasks are handled by the vendor, while the customer is only responsible for the database's content and use. DbaaS is most popular among small to mid-sized companies that lack the IT resources and staff to maintain a database on-premises.

Disaster recovery as a service (DraaS), which is also known as Business continuity as a service (BcaaS), includes the use of cloud resources for protecting customer data and business applications from being disrupted during a disaster. DraaS implies full backups of the system that contribute to the business process continuity in case of system failures.

Communications as a Service (CaaS) allows businesses to deploy and use communication solutions, including voice over IP (VoIP or Internet telephony), collaboration and video conferencing apps, instant messaging, etc. The CaaS vendor is fully responsible for the hardware and software management, providing flexible services that cater to the particular customer's demand on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Networking-as-a-service (NaaS) is when cloud service providers deliver networking services, resources, and applications to customers so they don't have to build their network infrastructure. The list of provided solutions may include Bandwidth On Demand, hosted networks as a service, Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity, secure Virtual Private Networks (VPN) as a service, etc.


Despite many opportunities for XaaS to prosper, and promising predictions of the cloud computing market growth, many businesses are still wary of cloud services and products. The main hurdles to XaaS adoption are integration, performance, downtimes, customizability, and vendor lock-in concerns. However, XaaS providers are striving to overcome these issues and minimize customers' risks, so the massive cloud migration we've witnessed in recent years is likely to continue.

Alex Sokolov bio

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