Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) comprises computing, storage, desktop and networking resources delivered on demand. Of the types of services that state and local governments can procure from the cloud, IaaS has the potential to have the biggest measurable impact because it can take large IT system purchases out of the budget:
Moreover, IaaS can help realize goals that state and local government IT departments have had for years but have been unable to attain because of their traditional infrastructure models. For example, true disaster recovery has remained elusive for many because it was largely an exercise in redundancy — redundant servers, storage arrays and communications links. Today, maintaining those resources in the cloud and implementing tools that can quickly and automatically move computing jobs among them as needed ensures that a government’s infrastructure is always available.
In general, state and local governments embrace IaaS for one or more of the following reasons:
Nowhere is cloud computing’s cost equation more stark than when it comes to infrastructure. The difference between the capital cost of purchasing servers that an organization must write down over a period of years and the operational cost of renting the same server capabilities from a cloud provider is a core argument for IaaS. But every organization’s needs are different, and IaaS doesn’t always make better financial sense over in-house infrastructure solutions.
With more governments holding on longer to their PCs, servers, storage and
networking gear, the prospect of renting infrastructure in the cloud can be a welcome idea. IaaS providers are more like to employ the latest technology to attract customers. They can afford to do so because they lease IaaS resources to many different organizations at the same time.
In a traditional infrastructure model, if the IT team needs, for example, more storage to support a new initiative, it must procure the storage system, have it delivered, set it up, configure and test it, and then make it operational. In the cloud, such IaaS is provisioned online and available in a fraction of the time.
On-demand IaaS resources also make it possible for IT teams to pull together entire computing platforms rapidly. For example, if an organization must add hundreds of employees to meet a specific seasonal demand, the IT department can procure desktop resources, storage and the server environments and networking to support them from a centralized console.
Best of all, with IaaS, IT staff don’t have to put their hands on as many systems in order to troubleshoot and maintain them all. Significant system upgrades can be time- and resource-consuming for the IT group. But in the cloud, an IaaS provider handles upgrades, support and maintenance.
The best time to derive maximum benefits from IaaS is when an organization has an immediate need. If its servers, desktops or storage systems are due for an upgrade, an organization can explore avoiding hardware upgrades by moving infrastructure capacity to the cloud. For many small businesses, nonprofits and other groups, IT is not a core competency. IaaS may be a natural solution to their IT needs.
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