PaaS the pizza: Understanding cloud basics


Today, much of our university uses services that run in the cloud—such as Canvas, Duo Security, U-M Box and Google, Concur, and Qualtrics. Your smartphones run your favorite apps in the cloud, Spotify plays music in the cloud, ToDoist keeps you scheduled in the cloud. These are Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud solutions. Information and Technology Services is exploring a path to running many of its current on-premise services in the cloud. It would do this by taking advantage of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions.

Cloud efforts are a strategic priority for the university’s computing environment. What we are doing today in the cloud is different than what we aspire to do tomorrow in the cloud. Understanding this difference is one of the first steps to getting a clearer picture of how moving to the cloud will affect the future of computing at U-M.

So what do all these acronyms mean and how do you, as a Michigan IT staff person, explain these concepts to faculty and your peers? While the technical details that differentiate SaaS and PaaS may seem daunting, one thing everyone understands is pizza: how it’s made, where to buy it, and how it’s delivered.

At the University of Michigan, our current environment for IT is primarily on-premise, with most applications and services running from our data centers: making pizza at home from scratch. We have experience with Software as a Service (SaaS) across many applications:  dining out. We have  limited experience with the middle, Infrastructure and Platform as a Service, but that is the source of the greatest demand.

Check out these diagrams that explain how “pizza in the cloud” relates to technology services.

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