Azure Solutions: IaaS vs. PaaS

Azure Solutions IaaS vs. PaaS

The world continues to adopt cloud computing. Businesses continue to move their processes into the cloud and, in some instances, run their entire stack on remote hosts. Terms like IaaS and PaaS have become household words in business computing as cloud computing services like Microsoft Azure continue to garner the market.

Azure Solutions IaaS vs. PaaS - market share 2021

Azure controls over 20 percent of the cloud infrastructure service provision market


In this post, we will have a look at what Microsoft Azure IaaS and PaaS are, how they differ from one another, and what tools you can use to get the optimal performance out of each – or both – services.

The three cloud computing models

Although we will only be talking about IaaS and PaaS, there are three models of cloud computing. They are:

  • IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) Τhis model represents the provision of assets like compute, storage, and networking services. e.g.: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Compute Engine (GCE)
  • PaaS (Platform as a Service) Α model where the service provider delivers software and hardware tools over the internet. e.g.: Microsoft Azure, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Google App Engine
  • SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) Ιn this model, software delivery and licensing are provided to clients via subscriptions. e.g.: Google Workspace, Dropbox, Salesforce

Before we delve any deeper into IaaS and PaaS, we thought this diagram would help explain where the borders are drawn demarking the line between self-managed and third-party delivered solutions:

What is the difference between IaaS PaaS SaaS

Various management responsibilities of cloud services

Now, before we move on, we need to focus on the two initial words in IaaS and PaaS – “Infrastructure” and “Platform”.

They are the keywords that will help us better understand the comparison of the IaaS and PaaS Azure solutions – the first indicates that it involves the infrastructure that is needed by the client while the second involves the platform on which the infrastructure will stand.

This means in PaaS the client needs to only worry about applications and data while in IaaS they might need to take on more responsibility for their operating systems, middleware, and runtimes.

What is IaaS?

We have seen that IaaS is a model of cloud computing services and that it offers essential compute, storage, and networking resources on-demand, on a pay-as-you-go basis.

This allows end-users to scale or shrink resources on an as-needed basis, reducing the need for tying up capital expenditure in unnecessary “owned” infrastructure, especially in the case where unexpected spikes in traffic or workload are common.

The IaaS model consists of a collection of physical and virtualized resources that provide consumers with the basic building blocks needed to run applications and workloads in the cloud.

These resources are:

  • Physical data centers IaaS providers manage large data centers that are spread across the world. The data centers hold physical servers – that house the various layers of abstraction and virtualizations which are made available to clients over the internet who, in most cases, do not have direct access to the physical infrastructure, but are instead provided to them as a service.
  • Compute IaaS compute service can be safely compared to a shared virtual machine (VM). While the service providers manage the hypervisors, the clients can programmatically provision virtual “instances” with desired amounts of computing, memory, and even storage. Cloud computing is also offered with supporting services like auto-scaling and load-balancing for better scalability and optimal performance respectively.
  • Network when it comes to IaaS, networking in the cloud is offered as a service where the traditional networking hardware – like routers and switches – are made available programmatically.
  • Storage there are three main types of cloud storage – block storage, file storage, and object storage. Of these, object storage has become the go-to solution for cloud computing. This is because it is highly distributed – which makes it resilient. It also leverages off-the-shelf hardware, shares data over HTTP, and scaling is not only limitless but performance also scales linearly as the cluster grows.

What is PaaS?

We have also seen that PaaS is a cloud computing model where third-party service providers deliver hardware and software tools to their clients over the internet.

The PaaS service providers host the hardware and software on their infrastructure freeing developers from worrying about having to install in-house hardware and software to develop or run their applications.

The service is offered as a cloud service and is accessed using a browser and can be used for jobs like:

  • Application design, development, deployment, and testing
  • Development team collaboration
  • Integration of web services and databases
  • Information security

Here too, clients only have to pay for PaaS on a per-use basis. But, some providers charge a flat monthly – or one-time – fee for access to their platforms and applications.

What is Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is the company’s flagship cloud platform for integrated services like analytics, computing, databases, mobile technology, and networking.

What are Azure cloud computing services?

All the services in Microsoft Azure can be categorized into one of the models – IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS.

Azure solutions: IaaS vs. PaaS

Before we can compare these two Azure solutions, we need to see what they are individually:

What is Azure IaaS?

Let’s have a look at some of the benefits of Azure IaaS – Microsoft’s instant computing infrastructure that can be accessed over the web.

Its benefits include:

  • The client gets a flexible, reliable, and scalable infrastructure that is managed by a leading tech company; this comes with their industry-leading security and compliance coverage.
  • The service provides a comprehensive set of cloud infrastructure resources and services that also support hybrid and multi-cloud deployments – all without the need to invest in an on-site infrastructure or waste money on overhead.
  • Businesses that sign up for the service can easily adopt the latest technology which, in turn, helps empower their employees; it helps introduce new working models – like remote work – while also ensuring business continuity even should a natural disaster occur thanks to its cross-region disaster recovery capabilities.
  • Meanwhile, their IT administrators can deploy virtual desktops and applications so that the employees can access the latest business-critical software and data anywhere, anytime; they can create unique testing environments for their developers to safely try their applications in.
  • Azure IaaS has in-built security controls and leverages its industry-leading threat intelligence to ensure data security at all stages of service provision.
  • Businesses can scale up their resource allocations to meet spikes in demand and then scale back down when it subsides – they are only charged for the resources they need to consume, and nothing more.
  • Azure networking integrates with clients’ existing network infrastructures to provide consistent, low-latency connectivity to their end-users located anywhere in the world.
  • Azure management and governance tools make it easy to manage and monitor servers, Kubernetes clusters, and applications across hybrid and multi-cloud environments; administrators can manage infrastructure and applications, provision resources, automate processes, and apply policies from a single control panel.
  • Applications and software on offer include Windows Virtual Desktop, Windows Server on Azure, SAP on Azure, and Azure VMware solution – everything an administrator needs to ensure optimal virtualization and containerization.

What is Azure PaaS?

Microsoft Azure PaaS is the prepackaged solution that offers computing hardware and software tools as a service.

Some of its beneficial features include:

  • The platform offers a complete development and deployment environment in the cloud that contains all the resources needed to enable developers to deliver everything from simple cloud-based apps to complex enterprise-level applications that are powered by cloud computing.
  • It helps build, test, deploy, manage, and update web applications without the need to maintain the cloud infrastructure; the service focuses more on custom applications rather than the hosting infrastructure.
  • Clients don’t have to worry about things like the operating system or the server – they just go about working on their applications; of course, they may need to take care of some server configuration – like scaling, although, for some services, like Azure Functions, it happens automatically.
  • Users can access essential resources from their Azure PaaS with a pay-as-you-go pricing model; the service also comprises storage and networking resources as well as development tools, DBMS, Business Intelligence (BI) services, middleware, and more.
  • Some examples of Azure PaaS services include the likes of App Service, Azure Cognitive Search, and Azure Content Delivery Network.

So what is the difference between Azure IaaS and PaaS?

Ok; now that we have seen what each of the services – Azure IaaS and Azure PaaS – have to offer, let us delve a little deeper and see what makes them different:

  • When it comes to Azure PaaS, it is all about making it easier for development and deployment. The administrators need to only worry about managing their applications and data. Microsoft manages the platform and other software and offers multiple development tools to help developers deliver quality products quickly.
  • In comparison, and when it comes to Azure IaaS, the client needs to install and configure the development platform and the middleware as well as maintain their database software. Meanwhile, they also need to acquire and maintain their development tools, software, and any other supporting tools.

With Azure PaaS, developers can tap into pre-built application components which helps them train and develop their skills using these resources.

Azure IaaS doesn’t have any pre-built components to build upon.

Simply put – Azure PaaS is a packaged solution ready to help develop and deploy apps, while Azure IaaS is just the bare-bones cloud infrastructure for the client to set up their custom environment on.

Server and Application Management Solutions

Let us now go ahead and have a look at the server and application management tools that are available to monitor instances.

Microsoft Azure Monitor

Microsoft Azure Monitor - dashboard

Microsoft Azure Monitor dashboard showing application map


Microsoft has Azure Monitor – their native application and server management solution – which also features Application Insights to help with managing its cloud services.

Application Insights provides extensible application performance management (APM) and monitoring for IaaS and PaaS services – like live web apps, containers, VMs, and other monitoring solutions – regardless of where they are hosted: on-premises, hybrid, or in the cloud.

Microsoft Azure Monitor - Application Insights

Application Insights covers applications, containers, VMs, and other monitoring solutions


Some of the features of Azure Monitor include:

  • Offers centralized, fully managed, and scalable data storage that has been optimized for performance and cost-effectiveness.
  • Comes with an advanced analytic engine, interactive query language, and built-in machine learning constructs.
  • Azure Monitor integrates with issue management, IT service management, security information, and event management tools.
  • Azure Monitor supports popular languages, frameworks, and popular DevOps tools such as .NET, Java, and Node.js.
  • Can also integrate well with DevOps processes and tools like Azure DevOps, Jira, and PagerDuty.
  • Tracks live metrics streams, requests, and response times, as well as events.
  • Users can analyze and optimize the performance of their infrastructure, including VMs, Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), and Azure Storage.
  • They can monitor and diagnose networking issues without logging into VMs.
  • They can also trigger packet captures, diagnose routing issues, analyze network security group flow logs, and gain visibility and control over their Azure networks.

Try Microsoft Azure Monitor for FREE.

More third-party Azure Μonitoring Τools

Now, although Microsoft has its native management solution for its IaaS and PaaS platforms, more tools serve as alternate options.

Here are some of the best server and application management solutions:

1. ManageEngine Applications Manager (FREE TRIAL)

ManageEngine Applications Manager - dashboard monitor disk utilization details

ManageEngine Applications Manager dashboard showing disk utilization and statistics


ManageEngine is another major player in the Azure monitoring applications market. They have an Applications Manager (AM) that is perfect for Azure IaaS and PaaS monitoring.

Let’s have a look at some features that make it so:

  • AM automatically discovers and starts to monitor Azure applications across different geographical locations along with their role instances.
  • It offers seamless cloud monitoring by tracking and troubleshooting the health of cloud applications and gives an integrated insight into all IaaS, SaaS, and DBaaS resources.
  • It also monitors PaaS instances – AM’s Azure monitoring tool covers the performance of Azure SQL databases by keeping an eye on the KPIs and query statistics; it sends out alerts in cases where there are discrepancies in performances or outages.
  • AM assures seamless cloud monitoring by tracking and troubleshooting the health of cloud applications for visibility across all IaaS, DBaaS, and SaaS services.
  • It also auto-discovers, and monitors, network communication between VMs and keeps track of key metrics like Net CLR and thread/process count; AM sends out alerts in cases of memory surges.
  • It gives deep actionable insights into the configuration details of Azure storage accounts to help prevent unplanned outages by tracking key metrics like blobs, tables, files, and queues; it also has diagnostic infrastructure logs to help with downtimes minimization.
  • The tool’s application performance monitor can monitor cloud services as well as on-premises resources – for example, it can monitor Azure services and instances on local Windows and Linux servers.

Try ManageEngine Applications Manager FREE for 30 days.

ManageEngine Applications Manager Start a 30-day FREE Trial

2. New Relic One

New Relic One dashboard

New Relic One dashboard showing web transactions time


New Relic provides a complete view of applications and operating environments on a single screen regardless of the fact where the applications are running. New Relic is integrated into Microsoft Azure, allowing for instant visibility into web and mobile apps as well as getting in-depth transaction details.

There’s more:

  • New Relic One monitors Java applications in Azure services like Azure Kubernetes Service and Azure VMs services.
  • It gives insight into application performance, dependencies, and bottlenecks; other metrics that can be monitored include page load times, error rates, and latencies transaction performance.
  • New Relic also has database monitoring features that offer detailed overviews of data storage and retrieval processes.
  • Feedback given includes alerts that are formed by policies or triggered by thresholds that have been exceeded.
  • Users can create and receive customized reports on anything from deployment, availability, and performance.
  • The tool helps DevOps teams collaborate, share, and work together resulting in shorter issue-resolution times.
  • What is attractive about this tool is that it is free.

Start using Try New Relic for FREE.

3. Datadog

Datadog Azure monitoring dashboard

Datadog dashboard with a graphical representation of application health

Datadog is a leading APM that enables teams to seamlessly track the performance of their services and includes Microsoft Azure monitoring.

On the other hand, Datadog can also monitor infrastructure and technologies that are not deployed on Azure. This makes it the ideal tool for monitoring assets in hybrid networking environments.

There’s more:

  • Datadog is a Microsoft Azure partner that makes it a tool for building streamlined experiences for purchasing, configuring, and managing Datadog directly inside the Azure portal.
  • The tool uses an agent – that is directly installed on Azure virtual machines – to collect metrics with great granularity and down to one-second resolution.
  • The tool collects and combines all of the data streaming from complex environments with extensive support for over 40 Azure services through easy-to-install integrations.
  • It also combines data from VMs and services to come up with comprehensive, platform-agnostic visibility into mission-critical applications regardless of their location – on-premises or in the cloud.
  • Users can collaborate on resolving issues with databases, VMs, containers, and more using the Service Map which allows them to track data flow across service boundaries.
  • The tool also allows users to analyze and explore logs, create intuitive and interactive dashboards for real-time reporting that can distinctly show the health and alerts triggered by issues in an aesthetic and easy-to-comprehend way.

Try Datadog for FREE.

4. SolarWinds Server & Application (SAM)

SolarWinds Server & Application (SAM) dashboard

SolarWinds Server & Application (SAM) dashboard with Node Details of VMs

SolarWinds is one of the leading makers of server and application monitoring tools. Its Server & Application Monitor (SAM) is a complete management tool to configure and get smart alerts, run in-depth reports, and monitor asset performance to help with fixing issues quickly.

Some of this tool’s features include:

  • SAM can be used to monitor both Azure services – Azure IaaS and PaaS.
  • It gives detailed infrastructure metrics that can be correlated for in-depth analysis; administrators gain visibility into the health, performance, and availability of all running cloud instances – in real-time.
  • It constantly polls the network to auto-discover newly created VMs and containers and keeps track of communication between the instances; all the data is updated on dynamic maps for easier and up-to-date visual representation.
  • The metrics collected by SAM also give insight into Azure regions, configurations, and security details to help ensure optimal performance and non-stop service delivery.
  • SAM also allows the viewing and correlation of Azure PaaS and IaaS monitoring metrics alongside other systems, infrastructure, and application metrics – resulting in a more integrated health and performance image.
  • Reports include graphs and charts showing metrics beside on-premises systems and applications to quickly compare performance and availability.

You can try SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM) through a free and fully functional 30-day trial.

Azure solutions IaaS vs. PaaS – Conclusion

Well, we hope that by now you have seen the major differences between Azure IaaS and Azure PaaS services.

If you take anything away from this post it should be this: PaaS sits on top of IaaS – IaaS is the base, PaaS is the middle layer of services, while SaaS sits at the top with applications being served to the client.

This will help you remember that the infrastructure includes everything that sits on top of it, while the platform focuses on the operating system and applications that a client may need, and software services are just that – giving software solutions to clients and letting them worry about nothing else.

We would like to hear what you think – leave us a comment below.

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