Prior to the advent of cloud-computing, businesses were individually responsible for standing up and maintaining their own data centers. For the uninitiated – this meant that every piece of hardware and software was managed by the staff in the data center.

This model is known as on-premise, where there organization is responsible for every facet of their data and application estate. If we bottle up all the components that loosely makeup an enterprise data center it would look something like this.

On premise data centers require a consider capital expenditure to purchase all of the physical and digital assets making up the chart above, including the building that contains them and people maintaining them. As the business grows, the capacity of the data center must grow as well.

Given the current state of extreme weather events impacting all areas of the globe – a single on-premise data center can appear quite vulnerable should something occur nearby that severs power, floods the grounds, or limits access to the facility.

A Shift to the Cloud

With the proliferation of cloud computing services many organizations are now presented with a myriad of options for moving this physical infrastructure out of the dedicated data center and into the cloud. Let’s examine these options with a Microsoft specific lens.

Infrastructure as a Service

With Infrastructure as a Service – Microsoft manages the physical infrastructure required to run a proper data center. This includes the first 4 tiers of the graphic above.

These take the shape of massive datacenters located all over the globe. We can explore them here: In the image below – the datacenters are represented by the blue/green circles.

The East US 2 data center is located in Boydton Virginia – and as you might expect – it’s massive and growing (at least based on this satellite image)

Inside these data centers are state-of-the-art infrastructure for storing, networking, securing, and virtualizing the items necessary to bring a business to the cloud. Check out the video below which tours the West US 2 data center in Washington State.

With Microsoft owning responsibility for the physical infrastructure – in an infrastructure as a service model – the business manages everything else.

A good conceptual model of this would be using Azure to spin up virtual machines upon which the business installs and maintains all of the necessary software and tools (i.e. SQL Server, Windows, etc)

Here the business still retains responsibility for upgrading software, installing patches, etc. They are essentially renting space from which to do this.

The advantages of IaaS versus On-premise

  • Pay for what you use
  • Improved stability and reliability
  • Better disaster recovery
  • Better security
  • Better ability to scale and grow IT workloads
  • Reduction of capital expenditures
  • Future proof
  • Free up IT staff

Platform as a Service

Platform as a Service is the next natural iteration of cloud computing. In this model, Microsoft manages all the physical infrastructure, as well the software tools to connect to that infrastructure. The business manages tools they wish to use within that framework, but is not responsible for software upgrades to the tool.

So in the chart above – the business brings the data and pays to provision the desired data application, but is not responsible for patching the SQL Server running the database or upgrading it when a new version is released. This is all handled by Microsoft.

The advantages of PaaS

  • Affordable access to sophisticated tools
  • Faster development
  • Easy management of application lifecycle

Software as a Service (SaaS)

At this point – this should make sense. Software as a Service is Microsoft providing a complete software package end to end. They manage everything. Some great examples here would be Teams, OneDrive, Outlook, and Skype.

We just interact with these tools, and have little control in how they are designed, deployed, or managed.

Anything as a Service (XaaS)

This only makes sense as the idea is to leverage nearly any technology product – as a service. This section could be extensive – but let’s try to lay a foundation for what the future will bring as the movement of physical hardware to the cloud continues.

Desktop as a Service

Aren’t we practically here? Much of the work we do with clients occurs on virtual desktops. How soon before the ‘standard-issue’ laptop is a thing of the past (looking at you desktop computer) and we just connect with a modest hub to a virtualized laptop. You’ll get to keep your monitors – but what happens when you need to travel?

IoT as a Service

This is perhaps a little more intriguing – but it makes sense when you consider how many IOT devices are scattered all around our houses and businesses. In most cases – we still must purchase the physical hardware and sensors – so it’s not a fully developed model yet, but perhaps soon – this requirement will no longer seem so far fetched.

Overall I think the XaaS is likely going to continue to evolve and explode over the next few years. It’s exciting to be a passenger on this ride!