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What are cloud services?

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Cloud services are infrastructure, platforms, or software that are hosted by third-party providers and made available to users through the internet. 

Cloud services facilitate the flow of user data from front-end clients (e.g. users’ servers, tablets, desktops, laptops—anything on the users’ ends), through the internet, to the provider’s systems, and back. Users can access cloud services with nothing more than a computer, operating system, and internet connectivity or virtual private network (VPN).

All infrastructure, platforms, software, or technologies that users access through the internet without requiring additional software downloads can be considered cloud computing services—including the following as-a-Service solutions.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provides users with compute, networking, and storage resources.

Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) provides users with a platform on which applications can run, as well as all the IT infrastructure required for it to run.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provides users with—essentially—a cloud application, the platform on which it runs, and the platform’s underlying infrastructure.

Function-as-a-Service (FaaS), an event-driven execution model, lets developers build, run, and manage app packages as functions without maintaining the infrastructure.

Depending on whom you ask, clouds can also be considered cloud services. Clouds are IT environments that abstract, pool, and share scalable resources across a network. Clouds enable cloud computing, which is the act of running workloads within a cloud environment. Clouds are a type of PaaS, since someone other than the user supplies the underlying infrastructure on which a web-based platform is provided.

Private clouds are loosely defined as a cloud environment solely dedicated to the end user, usually within the user’s firewall and sometimes on premise.

Public clouds are cloud environments created from resources not owned by the end user that can be redistributed to other tenants.

Hybrid clouds are multiple cloud environments with some degree of workload portability, orchestration, and management among them.

Multiclouds are IT systems that includes more than 1 cloud—public or private—that may or may not be networked together.

Like all other IT solutions, cloud services rely on hardware and software. However, unlike traditional hardware and software solutions, users don’t need anything other than a computer, network connection, and operating system to access cloud services.

When supplying users with a cloud infrastructure, cloud services providers detach computing capabilities from hardware components, such as separating:

  • Processing power from central processing units (CPUs)

  • Active memory from random access memory (RAM) chips
  • Graphics processing from the graphics processing units (GPUs)
  • Data storage availability from datacenters or hard drives

This abstraction is typically accomplished through virtualization and virtual machines. Once separated, the storage, compute, and networking components are provided to users through the internet as infrastructure—or IaaS. This kind of cloud service has led to the rise of cloud storage, which stores big data as part of the Internet of Things (IOT). RackSpace is an example of an IaaS provider.

Cloud service providers can also use their hardware resources to create cloud platforms, which are online environments where users can develop code or run apps. Building a cloud platform requires more than just abstracting a computer’s capabilities from its hardware components—like when providing cloud infrastructure. Providing a cloud platform requires additional levels of development to incorporate technologies like containerization, orchestration, application programming interfaces (APIs), routing, security, management, and automation. User experience design (UX) is also an important consideration in order to create a navigable online experience.

Cloud platforms are a type of PaaS. And if the infrastructural components holding up the PaaS are highly scalable and sharable, it might be considered a cloud. The best examples of PaaS clouds include public clouds and managed private clouds.

Public cloud providers

Public cloud providers abstract their own infrastructure, platforms, or apps from hardware they own; pool them into data lakes; and share them with many tenants. They can also offer public cloud services, like API management, cloud-based operating systems, or libraries of development templates known as frameworks. Some popular public clouds include Alibaba Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and IBM Cloud.

Managed private clouds

Also known as managed cloud providers, private cloud providers serve customers a private cloud that's deployed, configured, and managed by someone other than the customer. It's a cloud delivery option that helps enterprises or small businesses with understaffed or underskilled IT teams provide better private cloud services and infrastructure to users.

The final widely accepted cloud service that providers can offer is a full web application—known as cloud software or SaaS. This requires the highest development investment because the cloud provider is literally offering an online app to customers.

Cloud software can be provided using a cloud-native approach, which is an application architecture combining small, independent, and loosely coupled microservices. Multiple microservices can be packaged into individual Linux® containers managed by a container orchestration engine like Kubernetes or Red Hat® OpenShift®. The final product is a cloud app that can be optimized by the microservice without impacting other microservices that—together—make up the whole app.

Another popular programming language for online apps, mobile apps, and SaaS products is known as Hyper Text Markup Language 5 (HTML5). This programming language incorporates 3 programming languages to create apps that can be accessed in a web browser:

  • HTML: Adds content to web pages.
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): Adds presentation elements to web page content.
  • JavaScript: Adds interactive elements to web page content.

Because we not only give you source code access as part of our as-a-Service subscriptions (a benefit few other cloud service providers offer), but we also have a suite of open source products that underpin nearly every cloud solution you could possibly provide. 

If you’re already a cloud service provider, download this 451 Research analyst paper and consider the benefits of an open source foundation. We even have an infrastructure migration solution to guide you through the transformation.

Tools to help you provide cloud services

Red Hat OpenShift

An enterprise-ready Kubernetes container platform.

Red Hat Openstack Platform

A platform for public and private clouds.

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