Wikipedia defines Infrastructure-as-a-Service as ‘the delivery of computer infrastructure (typically a platform virtualization environment) as a service’.

I believe we’ll see an evolution of offerings that build on the IaaS category. The two leading use cases right now are app/web site hosting and testing/training/demo. For app/web site hosting, a service provider should support standard operating system VM images, a basic UI, load balancing, environment configuration and an API for management.

For the testing/training/demo solutions there are some other important capabilities required that build on the IaaS layer:

  • Self-service UI / provisioning – users aren’t necessarily highly technical, so a self-service UI is needed to enable environment set-up and configuration.
  • Hybrid cloud/on-site capability – applications often need access back to on-site services, such as mainframes or internal web services. A configurable VPN gateway enables this
  • Full architectural control – many hosting cloud services force architectural decisions around storage, networking, and supported platforms. To be able to run your existing applications in the cloud, you need full architectural control over networking configuration, OS platforms, databases, queuing services, load balancing etc.
  • Snapshot and automation – the ability to snapshot entire multi-machine configurations and automate the set-up and tear-down of environment is essential for highly dynamic environments such as test/training etc.

Over time, these capabilities will also be very important in production environments, but the underlying virtual infrastructure isn’t there just yet. Imagine the ability to snapshot an entire server configuration when a production issue occurs and send to support for resolution and debugging. Or the ability to migrate staging environments straight into production with the click of a button. Disaster recovery is also another important use case these types of capabilities will enable. Over the next few years, I believe we’ll see all these capabilities supported in solutions that build on Infrastructure-as-a-Service, enabling production environments to be transitioned to the cloud and the benefits of lower cost and true scalability to be achieved.