Dear Dr. Cloud,


The lingo in this cloudy world has become so confusing. I’m here in the UK where I have to translate “datacenter” to “data centre” and “server farm” to “server estate”. And Organization to Organisation. Things are pretty annoying to begin with, and now I have the cloud  contend with.


So, help me.. IaaS? PaaS? SaaS? Can I run sharepoint on  our private cloud inside the enterprise and call it “Internal SaaS”?? Can I load up my own configured dev environment on an AWS instance and call it PaaS? What’s the point of all these labels? Aren’t these just application stacks on resources?


--Unsure in the United Kingdom


Dear Unsure,


You know, you have a point. Basically, a cloud nets out to resources, remotely and delivered in a metered on-demand way. What you put on those resources is up to you. You can load anything you like. These flavors basically characterize different chunks of the entire software stack that are being delivered as a single service by a provider.


So, an IaaS provider basically just providers the OS. Though, they often toss in a lot of tooling, monitoring, compliance, security, identity management and even basic middleware in with that OS – so it really isn’t just an OS. But it can be. It’s a blank piece of paper, with or without holes already punched.


A PaaS provider claims to give you a solution tailored specifically for developers. So, think of that as getting your paper printed with lines. Or graph paper. Nothing’s really on it – but you have more of a framework for the job you want to get done.


Finally, SaaS is a full checklist. A Pre-printed to-do list or shopping list. You get the whole application – like You get a login. The muck underneath the application, often a web app, is entirely obscured from you.


And I suppose you, as IT, can deliver all 3 to your business users – or buy all 3 from external providers. But, here’s the kicker – to the end user, these are all just business services. You aren’t going to set up a service catalog with SaaS and PaaS listed. It will say “Sharepoint” or “LAMP stack” or “.NET IDE” or “IIS Web Server.”


Maybe this is just another instance of the industry making up more words, for our own vendor reasons. Make sure you know what your users need… which, when it comes right down to it, is service.


Dr. Cloud answers cloudy questions on Tuesdays (or when he's late, Wednesdays). To reach the good doctor, email