Breaking Down PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS

A Comparison Between PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS

What do the terms PaaS, SaaS and IaaS mean, and how do you choose between them? All three are different types of cloud service, offering infrastructure and resources-on-demand as a service. Each offers a fundamentally different approach to the management of IT resources.


Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers an online framework that developers can build upon to create, test and deliver customized applications. The third-party provider manages the infrastructure and operating systems side (including servers, storage, software updates and networking) allowing the developer to focus on management of the applications and building software. PaaS is:

  • A platform for software creation
  • The platform is delivered online
  • Customizable - businesses can design and create applications built into the PaaS with specific software elements
  • Scalable and highly available - multiple users can access the same development application
  • Reduces the amount of coding necessary
  • Automates business policy and admin
  • Offers services for development, testing and deployment of apps
  • Integrates web services and databases
  • Supports DevOps principles


Software as a Service (SaaS) is a full application, hence SaaS are also known as cloud application services. It is the most commonly used option for businesses in the cloud market. It offers less flexibility than a PaaS or IaaS as the SaaS platform controls most of the look and feel, along with the stored data. Most SaaS applications are run through the web browser so the end user does not need to perform any downloads or installations to make use of the application. SaaS offers:

  • Virtually no in-house management; hardware and software updates are managed instead from a central location (i.e. no downloads or installations required for the user)
  • Hosted on a remote server
  • Accessible online
  • You maintain identity and access management (IAM)
  • SaaS applications can be linked to other software using APIs
  • Offers specific services, such as storage (i.e. Dropbox) or WebEx conferencing (i.e. Cisco WebEx)


Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides cloud computing infrastructure (including storage, computing and networking resources) on a pay-as-you-go basis to enterprises through virtualization technology. Some people describe IaaS providers, such as AWS and Microsoft Azure, as a virtual data center. In addition to provisioning hardware, IaaS providers issue access to other infrastructure services, including network monitoring, security, billing and load balancing. These tend to be provided to the client through a dashboard or an API:

  • Offers automated deployment of computing resources (including servers, networking, storage and processing power)
  • Hardware and resources can be purchased on an as-needed basis
  • Generally includes multiple users on one piece of hardware
  • Deploys middleware
  • Services are scalable
  • Organizations retain control over their applications and infrastructure

Further comparisons between PaaS, SaaS and IaaS are available here and here.

Why Edge Compute Platform is a better alternative to legacy CDNs

An Edge Compute Platform like Section offers you greater flexibility, control and transparency than is possible with the legacy CDNs. Indeed, the founders of Section followed an “internal manifesto” when building the service to do the opposite of the legacy CDNs in certain key respects. Our developer-friendly approach offers dev teams visibility into their reverse proxies, which legacy CDNs do not. This provides the transparency to understand what is happening with your stack.

The Section Edge Compute Platform also crucially doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to any aspect of its services. Developers are not locked into any one proxy software stack at a time, as with traditional CDNs. As PaaS is built on container-based technology, resources can be scaled up and down as your business needs change. You can customize your reverse-proxy stack based on the tools that work best for your site at any given time, swapping out different modules (both open-source and proprietary software) as needed.

The open-source mindset is one that we embrace at Section: valuing transparency, collaboration and community in a similar spirit to that of Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux (which became the kernel for the Linux, Android and Chome OS operating systems) and the distributed revision control system Git. By giving developers access to open-source software and embracing an open-source mindset, new possibilities are opened up.

With our Edge Compute Platform, you also have the choice of where you want to run your edge based on the best locations for your application and users. You can deploy your edge on our global delivery cloud, on-premises, on a private or public cloud of your choosing, within the telcos and even into target networks.

The Section Edge Compute Platform offers agility, flexibility and is more cost-effective than the legacy CDNs, as infrastructure and developer costs are reduced and there is usually a faster-time-to-market for products, resulting in increased revenue for businesses. For developers that want the ability to flexibly customize their own applications without the hassle of managing the underlying infrastructure, PaaS is the ideal solution.

Similar Articles