What Is IaaS? Understanding Infrastructure as a Service

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

IaaS can offer transformative opportunities for businesses. Discover more about what this technology is, how it differs from PaaS and Saas, and careers that work with IaaS professionally.

[Featured Image] A pair of cloud engineers work with their IaaS provider while on their computer.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offers businesses virtualized computing resources delivered by cloud service providers, allowing them to outsource hardware investment and maintenance. The benefits of IaaS include scalability, cost savings, flexibility, and data protection, among others. With the popularity and overall usage of IaaS growing, examples of popular IaaS applications include software development and testing, website hosting, big data analytics, and high-performance computing (HPC). 

What is IaaS used for?

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) functions as a cloud computing model that grants virtualized infrastructure and computing resources. In this model, cloud service providers deliver scalable and on-demand access to virtualized hardware resources over the internet. Some resources include virtual machines, storage, and networking capabilities, without the need for physical infrastructure on the user's end. Essentially, IaaS allows businesses to outsource their hardware needs to a cloud service provider, eliminating the need to invest in and maintain physical servers and infrastructure.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

Like IaaS, Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) are cloud computing models. Each has unique distinctions; here is a breakdown: 

  • IaaS is a virtualized infrastructure.

  • PaaS aims to provide an environment capable of fostering application development.

  • SaaS provides software applications accessible to you online.

While IaaS provides the most control and flexibility, allowing users to manage their operating systems and applications, PaaS abstracts away the infrastructure concerns, allowing developers to focus solely on application development. SaaS, on the other hand, eliminates the need for users to install or manage software applications because you access them over the internet on a subscription basis.

Read more: Intro to Cloud Computing: IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

Benefits of IaaS in companies

IaaS provides companies with many benefits, including: 

  • Scalability: Companies utilizing IaaS have the ability to grow or shrink their infrastructure at any given time to accommodate current plans and their overall need. Based on how a business's demand fluctuates, they can always maintain peak performance at a low cost by onboarding additional resources or cutting unnecessary resources.

  • Cost savings: With IaaS, companies spend less of their capital on costly upfront payments for critical, physical infrastructure. Instead, the infrastructure utilized comes as a subscription cost. Also referred to as a pay-as-you-go basis, this set-up results in cost savings over traditional on-premises infrastructure. This allows companies, and specifically the IT team, to spend less time figuring out expenses and more time building and running the business. 

  • Flexibility: IaaS provides the flexibility to experiment with different technologies and configurations without needing physical hardware. It gives you the ability to create and deploy new applications and services for businesses in a rapid fashion. This creates an opportunity for companies to quickly address market demands.

  • Disaster recovery and data backup: Many IaaS providers include crucial disaster recovery and data backup features within their service to ensure the safety and availability of critical business data. Important features include a wide range of disaster recovery tools and a built-in data redundancy tool.

Applications and examples of IaaS

Many industries and scenarios benefit from IaaS. Some examples include:

  • Development and testing environments: IaaS provides a flexible and cost-effective platform for creating development and testing environments, allowing businesses to rapidly create and release new business applications.

  • Web hosting and website infrastructure: Companies can host their websites and web applications on IaaS platforms, benefiting from the scalability and reliability of cloud infrastructure.

  • Big data and analytics: IaaS helps companies process and analyze large volumes of data, leveraging the abilities of the cloud. It allows companies to perform complex data analytics without needing to invest in dedicated infrastructure.

  • High-performance computing (HPC): IaaS can support computationally intensive workloads by providing access to high-performance computing resources on demand. These tasks are also now more affordable with IaaS through the pay-as-you-go model.

Careers in IaaS

Several career paths exist in the IaaS field. Some of the most common occupations you can explore include the following.

Read more: 4 Cloud Computing Career Paths to Know

*All salary data is sourced from Glassdoor as of October 2023

1. Cloud solution architect 

Average base annual salary (US): $118,392 [1]

Architects work with businesses to create and implement cloud solutions tailored to their specific needs. They collaborate and partner with the necessary clients in the business to figure out what features to include in the overall cloud strategy to ensure that the solution aligns with business objectives.

Read more: Cloud Architect Career Guide: 10 In-Demand Jobs and Skills

2. Cloud systems administrator

Average base annual salary (US): $83,373 [2]

Administrators manage and maintain the IaaS infrastructure by installing computer systems, organizing networks, and troubleshooting complications when they arise. They ensure the operation and performance of the cloud environment.

3. Cloud DevOps engineer

Average base annual salary (US): $103,413 [3]

DevOps engineers focus on code releases and integrating the cloud infrastructure on different platforms. They look to improve the solutions available and bolster the infrastructure to perform as highly as possible.

4. Cloud security engineer

Average base annual salary (US): $107,467[4]

Engineers ensure the security and compliance of IaaS environments. They design and implement security measures, monitor for any possible risks or threats, and introduce and maintain the optimal procedures to protect data.

5. Cloud consultant

Average base annual salary (US): $90,401[5]

Consultants provide expert advice and guidance to organizations on cloud adoption, including IaaS solutions. They assess business requirements, improve the efficiency of operations, and provide recommendations on optimizing cloud resources.

Job outlook for careers in IaaS

Careers related to IaaS or cloud computing are growing at a much faster rate than the average for all occupations from 2022 to 2032. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations in computer and information technology will have an average of about 377,500 job openings each year [6]. 

Getting started with Coursera 

If you’re interested in learning more about IaaS or other areas of cloud computing consider enrolling in System Administration and IT Infrastructure Services offered by Google. This course is a part of the Google IT Support Professional Certificate and covers topics like IT infrastructure, platform services, data recovery, and more. 

Article sources


Glassdoor. “How much does a Cloud Solution Architect make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/cloud-solutions-architect-salary-SRCH_KO0,25.htm.” Accessed October 27, 2023.

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