Skip to main content

Cloud Computing: Decoding the Acronym Soup

Today, every industry seems to have its own specialized insider lexicon, written and spoken with acronyms. Cloud computing is no exception, and it may even be a little more difficult to comprehend because the rise of Everything as a Service (XaaS) has created few homonyms and more are sure to follow. For example, SaaS commonly refers to Software as a Service, but can also mean Storage as a Service or Security as a Service. The result is that keeping up with the Cloud acronym soup can be a challenge — a cursory search for “as a service types” on Google yields more than 2.1 billion results.

If your enterprise is looking to move its IT to the cloud, what you really need to understand first is the difference between the three primary service models available in the cloud: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS (the software version). They are the on-ramps to the cloud; understanding their differences will save you questions, time and money.


The three primary service models offered through the cloud are:


Infrastructure as a Service enables the consumer to manage their data storage, network access and applications through a host, and provides a high level of flexibility and control of IT resources. The consumer is still responsible for the operating system and data management, including runtime, applications and middleware. The Service includes servers, storage, virtualization and networking while leaving the highest level of control with an organization’s IT administrators.



Think of Platform as a Service as a more advanced and robust state of IaaS, in which enterprises can combine applications and database components into a single hosting platform. The service takes over the management of operating systems, runtime, and middleware in addition to those offered through IaaS, leaving the consumer in charge of managing their data and applications. This model is especially advantageous for software developers who can use PaaS to develop their own products.



Software as a Service encompasses everything offered by IaaS and PaaS, plus handles the customer’s applications and data. For the consumer, it is the most hands-off service model, and therefore an increasingly popular choice, providing access to powerful business applications delivered straight to end-users and accessible through a terminal or smart device. The software provider manages all aspects of a product, including maintenance and upgrades. The only thing a user of SaaS needs to be concerned with is learning the software and making the most of its capabilities. SaaS replaces traditional software that needs to be loaded onto a system. SaaS can eliminate upfront investments and annual maintenance fees inherent in traditional software implementations.


Is it time to move your business to the right cloud computing platform?

Trimble Transportation has prepared a special guide to help you determine when to make the transition. Download, “When to Move to the Cloud,” to learn how to lay the groundwork. The free reference document includes support materials like a specially tailored checklist along with a list of questions to ask to check your company’s level of readiness.