XaaS explained: an as-a-service overview

Today, we are more likely to consume software by subscribing to a service than buying a product outright. Whenever you rely on this subscription-based software delivery model, you’re using ‘XaaS’.

XaaS is a generalised term for cloud service delivery models. It stands for ‘anything’ (X) as a service. XaaS spans a smorgasbord of cloud-hosted solutions that can be consumed on a per-seat, per-month basis, contingent on usage.

The most common of the ‘as-a-service’ models are IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. But what are they, exactly? Here are the different types of XaaS explained.

A XaaS overview

With XaaS, you pay to use the functionality of X, rather than buying the solution outright. It’s a bit like renting the tech functions that you need. You pay a recurring fee for as long as you need to use the service, but never own the product yourself.

The functionality in ‘as-a-service’ models is delivered over a network. As such, XaaS computing models require varying levels of participation from the vendor. The vendor might provide infrastructure only, for example. Or, they might provide a fully-featured, ready-to-go application.

So, though they sound similar, XaaS delivery models each hold a different level of control, customisability, and functionality. This is where it becomes essential to know your IaaS, from your PaaS, from your SaaS.


IaaS stands for infrastructure as a service. In IaaS, the provider hosts the infrastructure components you need to store and use your data. These components include servers, storage and virtualisation.

IaaS is a self-service model. So, the management and maintenance of things like the software applications that you use is on you.

Using IaaS is more scalable, flexible and cost-effective than hosting everything yourself. It allows you to access resources such as extra storage on an as-needed basis. So, busy periods run as smoothly as normal ones. You don’t need the hardware to support the extra load, and you only ever pay for what you use.


PaaS stands for platform as a service. Accessed via a web browser, this platform provides the tools and framework you need for software creation. So, instead of a finished software program, PaaS lets you build your own software.

Using PaaS saves you from finding and sourcing each individual software tool you need to create your own solutions. This makes the development and deployment of your own apps more cost-effective. Subscribing to PaaS can even reduce the amount of code you need to write.

PaaS models offer a greater level of customisability than SaaS. You get to tailor-make your own solutions to only have the features you need. However, this comes at the cost of the time and effort needed to create your own solutions and processes.


SaaS stands for software as a service, and it’s the most common type of XaaS. This cloud delivery model sees vendors deliver the use of ready-made applications.

In other words, SaaS is the as-a-service version of your third-party software programs. So, instead of buying a software product outright, you pay a recurring fee to use it.

This fee will usually cover not only your use of the program but the ongoing maintenance of that program as well. So, you’ll benefit from updates and upgrades to the application as and when they become available. In comparison, this is not always the case when you buy the solution outright.

Compared to the other XaaS explained in this overview, SaaS has the most responsibility placed on the vendor. The onus is on the vendor to manage, maintain and develop the program in use.

XaaS explained

These aren’t the only XaaS examples. Others include DaaS (database as a service), CaaS (communications as a service) and even MaaS (malware as a service). 

Whichever model you need, XaaS is a cost-effective, space efficient and flexible way of securing resources for your business.

So, whether you’re looking for a ready-made software solution, a platform to build your own, or a foundation for you to exert full control over, there’s a cloud delivery model that can help.   

Useful links

SaaS vs SaaP: what are the key differences?

Web vs desktop apps: a weigh-up

SaaS pricing models explained