Articles 29/05/2020

Anything as a service. Explaining XaaS & cloud services

Learn what XaaS services are and what role they play in cloud solutions. In this article, we will compare the DIY and «as-a-service» concepts, as well as give a couple of popular & unexpected examples of XaaS solutions in the cloud

What is the XaaS concept and how does it differ from DIY?

The «as-a-service» concepts refers to products or services used on-demand whenever the need arises. Economically, the basis of this concept is «pay-as-you-go». The cloud solution market offers a wide variety of services that are provided using the XaaS format.

There are plenty of services comparable to XaaS in everyday life. Let’s take a beachside hotel as an example: you pay for the number of days you’ll be staying there and you stop paying once you check out. Once your vacation is over, the service is no longer needed. This is much more cost-efficient than the alternative – buying a villa on that same beach. You will have to invest in the real estate, renovations, furniture and appliances. You have to pay for utilities, security, perhaps cleaning and gardening services as well. However, you only ever visit it for a couple of weeks each year when you’re on vacation. You don’t get to enjoy the benefits of owning a beachside villa the rest of the year while still paying for it. Buying a villa is DIY, do-it-yourself.

In IT, organizing an infrastructure according to the DIY concept means buying server and network equipment, maintaining and administrating it by upgrading both hardware and software. This also requires a physical space with all the necessary equipment: power supply units, ventilation, network connections, fire protection etc. Organizing fault tolerance is a vital task, which means that all critical nodes need reserve equipment. These tasks can drain a company’s budget and may take decades to pay off.

The XaaS concept is more cost-efficient in comparison. There is no need to purchase equipment or organize the conditions for its stable and uninterrupted functioning if you can rent the computing resources from a provider. This drives the high demand for such services in the corporate sector, while new services are constantly added.

XaaS helps save funds and solve the most common corporate IT tasks

What role does XaaS play in the digital transformation of a business?

The technological basis of most cloud XaaS microservices is best described as «Software-as-a-Service», SaaS. The client picks the tools for working in the cloud: reserve copying & data recovery, content management, data base management, cloud storage, network configurations, infrastructure monitoring, backend, payment systems and even malware. The assortment of XaaS services grows constantly. Even if a provider cannot offer his own proprietary service, integration with other vendors’ solutions is often allowed.

The XaaS approach correlates with BYOD – bring-your-own-device. It is hard to imagine a modern company without this corporate IT management concept. Within this model, employees use their own devices for access to the corporate network: phones, tablets, smart watches, laptops etc. The issue of data security is solved by the concept of IT resource management through API interfaces. Some companies on the market even offer API-as-a-Service.

Digital transformation sets specific requirements towards the organization of business processes, and the XaaS concept fully corresponds to them. The benefits of XaaS for businesses include the reduction of spending and risks, the simplification of processes and employee optimization, regular updates by the provider, flexibility in terms of management and financial planning. Reliable providers always have a financial responsibility to the clients determined by the Service Level Agreement – a document that describes the guaranteed quality of services.

XaaS services cover the most common IT needs of companies & individual users

What are some examples of XaaS services in the cloud?

The X in XaaS is a variable; as a rule, it is the first letter of the cloud service. Sometimes this causes confusion: different vendors have similar products with different names, in other cases the same abbreviation may refer to different services. For example, MaaS can stand for Monitoring-as-a-Service, Metal-as-a-Service (dedicated server rental) or even Malware-as-a-Service. The same can be said of reserve copying: some providers call it BaaS, Backup-as-a-Service, while others refer to it as RaaS, Recovery-as-a-Service. This service copies critically important data and recovers it if necessary.

Covering the entire assortment of XaaS examples on the market is impossible within the scope of a single article, nor is it necessary. XaaS vendors often create solutions for the needs of a specific segment of users. However, there are services that are offered and used most commonly. They will be the ones that we will look into.

BaaS – Backup-as-a-Service: reserve copying

This service is one of the keys to the digital security of a business. It allows users to regularly create reserve copies of data in the cloud and transfer them to remote storage. Storing backups remotely improves the IT infrastructure’s tolerance towards various failures and events: even if the main system suffers from a cyber-attack, a natural disaster or another unexpected force-majeure, the reserve copies will not be affected. The system will be operational again in a short timeframe after it is recovered from the reserve copies.

Let’s take a look at an example of such a service. SIM-Networks engineers developed and implemented SIM-Cloud BaaS, a service created specifically for the company’s IaaS platform. Users activate it from the cloud control panel. The service is available in 2 variants: one stores backups in the same data center where the main infrastructure is located, the other transfers backups to remote storage. The first scenario improves the recovery speed while the second increases security.

RaaS – Recovery-as-a-Service: data recovery

RaaS is sometimes marketed as a service separate from BaaS, one that is more advanced in terms of data protection and recovery speed. In other cases, it is marketed as part of BaaS and often associated with DRaaS. Our view is that RaaS should be considered a part of Backup-as-a-Service; there is no basis for considering reserve copying, storage and recovery to be separate services.

DRaaS – Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service: system recovery

This complex service includes both reserve copying & recovery systems and full replication of all data, business processes and applications. DRaaS practically creates a clone of the main infrastructure which is constantly updated. In the event of any failures or natural disasters, the company’s services will continue functioning in this additional infrastructure until the main system is recovered. In the context of corporate management, DRaaS is one of main tools for BCM – Business Continuity Management. Creating a clone of the main infrastructure based on a company’s own platform means colossal spending, which most companies cannot afford. On the contrary, DRaaS is more affordable, convenient and protected by additional security measures offered by the provider.

MaaS – Monitoring-as-a-Service: infrastructure monitoring

This service is mostly offered by large providers. When using MaaS, users can control the state of the cloud infrastructure’s main parameters, the strain on the applications, as well as the functioning of software in the cloud. The purpose of the service is to lower the risk of infrastructure failures and downtime, as well as to optimize processes. This service’s development perspectives are closely tied to Big Data. CloudMon in the SIM-Cloud infrastructure is an example of MaaS.

DBaaS – Database-as-a-Service: ready-for-use data base

This solution is one of the key XaaS services due to the high demand. It allows companies to access data bases without setting up the infrastructure or the software for them. Maintenance, support, and management are handled by the provider while the users get a data base as a product.

EaaS – Environment-as-a-Service: development environment

This service model is sometimes referred to as IaaS Plus or as middle ground between PaaS and IaaS. The main point of this service is to provide the client with an environment for application development, testing and deployment. These environments are automatized and integrated with leading Kubernetes and Docker container solutions. EaaS solutions lower spending on cloud resources, optimize IT infrastructure usage and improve performance.

BaaS – Backend-as-a-Service: backend tools

Frontend is everything that the end user sees in the browser or in the interface; backend is the main functionality, meaning everything that works on the server. In other words, frontend is the visualization, HTML, CSS and JavaScript, while backed is the underwater part of the iceberg: programming languages, interactions with data bases. In the context of web and mobile app development, backend is the part responsible for interactions with the interface, data management and storage, data base request management and displaying this data in the browser. Backend-as-a-Service and its mobile variation, MBaaS, is a cloud service that provides the environment, the components, cloud storage, data bases, API and other tools that web developers need.

EaaS – Everything-as-a-Service: full cloud services

The name of this complex infrastructural solution is mostly driven by marketing. EaaS offers a full transformation of the existing infrastructure from on-premises to cloud solutions. This solution entails radical changes to the management strategy on all levels, including business processes, the production management methodology etc. It includes the choice of hardware parameters, configuration, implementation, migration from the local platform, purchasing and installing all necessary software, support, system & component updates and other aspects of infrastructure deployment. In practical terms, EaaS is a full cloud migration project carried out by the provider’s experts. You can learn more about such projects implemented by SIM-Networks in our case studies.

MaaS – Metal-as-a-Service: dedicated server rental

This term can be confusing at first glance. The name seems to imply that a client rents dedicated servers to use them in cloud infrastructure. In reality, there should be no misunderstandings: MaaS is a server orchestration solution. Within this concept, physical servers are treated as virtual machines, or instances in the cloud.. MaaS unites the servers into a flexible cloud resource pool, as opposed to managing the servers separately.

CaaS – Communication-as-a-Service: communication tools

This SaaS solution facilitates communication within the company through internet telephony, video calls, chats and messenger apps, common workspaces and other communication tools. Purchasing this array of programs allows companies to save on infrastructure and software; the solution can also be scaled, just like any other cloud service.

EaaS – Encryption-as-a-Service: data encryption

Data encryption is a good way to protect the company’s information from any interference, even if it ends up in the hands of malevolent actors. Users who value confidentiality take action to protect data. Complex data security measures are a must for reliable providers. If you are not convinced that your provider is using enough measures to protect your data, you can order Encryption-as-a-Service from a developer. These products are usually easily integrated into the cloud environment; however, the functionality of some of them depends of the cloud infrastructure’s platform.

CaaS – Content-as-a-Service: content management

This service is sometimes referred to as MCaaS – managed content as a service. This service is a lifesaver for the marketing department, which constantly generates, adapts and optimizes content for various delivery channels. CaaS is a service that allows corporate users to place, manage and structure content on various communication platforms, web and multimedia apps.

DaaS – Desktop-as-a-Service: remote desktop rental

This service gives users terminal access using thin clients and the RDP protocol. When corporations realized that maintaining personal computers is too costly in terms of maintenance, support and hardware updates (especially for companies with branching org charts), they started looking for ways to optimize this. Cloud technology offered a real solution for this issue. Organizing a remote connection for tens or hundreds of workplaces using Desktop-as-a-Service is easy, flexible and affordable.

EaaS – Emulation-as-a-Service: testing platform

Emulation-as-a-Service is a product in high demand among developers and system architects. Emulation is an array of hardware and software which imitates or emulates the main system. For example, SaaS solutions are used in QA for cross-browser testing; this tool allows users to track the functioning of apps in various web browsers and mobile platforms.

PaaS – Payments-as-a-Service: payment systems

PaaS is a variety of TPaaS, Transaction-Payments-as-a-Service. The service provides software as a service which unites user connections to local, regional and international payment systems through a single interface.

MaaS – Malware-as-a-Service: malicious software

This last example may come as a surprise. XaaS is usually mentioned in the context of achieving legal goals through ready-made products. However, if there is a demand for cyber-attacks, corporate espionage and data theft, there must be someone to supply the solution. Such malicious software (viruses, trojans and worms) developers work on cloud servers while providing the solutions using the SaaS model. Malware-as-a-Service products allow users to attack their victims using measures that include botnets provided by the developer.

Backup-as-a-Service

Backup-as-a-Service

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To conclude

The various benefits of XaaS make working in the cloud easier & more comfortable for users. Cloud providers understand it and try to stay ahead of the demand by proactively developing new services. For example, the SIM-Cloud infrastructure comes with these additional services:

  • DNS-as-a-Service (DNSaaS) – domain configuration management: DNS record creation, management and deletion;
  • Firewall-as-a-Service – allows the client to set up rules and policies for traffic management in the project’s instances, as far as blocking external access to the project entirely;
  • Notification-as-a-Service – a service that sends important notifications regarding events in the cloud infrastructure for troubleshooting, analytical audits etc.;
  • VPN-as-a-Service – a quick way to set up virtual private networks for a cloud project.

The examples of XaaS in cloud computing mentioned in the article are only a small fraction of the services that appear each day. Some of these solutions are only used in the corporate sector, others are marketed towards developers and IT experts. As cloud technology develops, we are guaranteed to see more and more XaaS products.

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