Home Topics xaas What is XaaS (anything as a service)?
Explore IBM's Hybrid Cloud Solutions Subscribe for cloud topic updates
Illustration with collage of pictograms of computer monitor, server, clouds, dots

Published: 20 May 2024

Contributors: Mesh Flinders, Ian Smalley

What is XaaS (anything as a service?)

XaaS (anything as a service), also known as everything as a service, is a term that refers to the delivery of solutions, applications, products, tools and technologies delivered as a service. 

Most XaaS applications have an IT component designed to fit a service model required by an enterprise. Unlike their physical or onsite counterparts, XaaS applications are typically delivered digitally through cloud computing, over a network connected to the internet.

XaaS is a broad term that encompasses many different types of IT services, such as SaaS (software as a service), PaaS (platform as a service) and IaaS (infrastructure as a service). Today, most major tech companies such as Microsoft™ Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and IBM® offer XaaS services. XaaS offerings have strong scalability, allowing service providers to deliver them on a flexible, as-needed basis rather than on a more traditional pricing model.

What’s the difference between XaaS and SaaS?

Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably due to the popularity of many SaaS solutions, XaaS and SaaS have different meanings. SaaS applies to XaaS products in the software space, while XaaS encompasses more than just software. Some examples of XaaS that aren’t SaaS include PaaS and IaaS, not to mention disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS)database as a service (DBaas) and many others.


Read the Forrester Wave™ API Management Solutions report

Find out why API Management is critical to driving digital business and how IBM compares with other vendors in the API Management landscape.

Related content

Subscribe to the IBM newsletter

Why is XaaS important?

The rise of cloud computing and the spread of high-bandwidth internet access around the globe are moving XaaS to the core of many successful enterprises.


From 5G and edge computing to artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), enterprise data processing requirements are increasing every day. Many successful businesses now turn to cloud platforms and XaaS services to help them achieve their digital transformation goals.

A strong approach to XaaS increases operational performance in the critical areas of AI, big data and hybrid cloud. XaaS platforms unite these capabilities, allowing enterprises to bridge data in a hybrid cloud framework so they can deliver cutting-edge AI services that set them apart from competitors.

Another advantage of a strong XaaS approach is that it gives enterprises the ability to strategically locate their most critical services. For example, SaaS, IaaS and PaaS, three common XaaS product categories, are typically located in a public cloud environment. However, some enterprises prefer an on-premises cloud environment for more control. A strong XaaS business model gives them the ability to choose which services are in an on-premises cloud and which are hosted in a public cloud.

Five enterprise benefits of XaaS

XaaS’ primary benefit to organizations is financial. Before XaaS, businesses had to purchase the software, solutions, services and products they needed to function outright. This approach meant a large outlay of capital, often without any assurances that the service or solution would function the way that they needed it to.

XaaS’ scalable, flexible, pay-as-you-go model allows enterprises of different sizes and across different industries to experiment with which XaaS services are right for them without incurring large upfront costs. In addition to cost savings, enterprises typically realize these other benefits as well:

1. Increased innovation: XaaS’ multitenant approach—where a single application serves multiple users—simplifies the process of adopting new services and decommissioning old ones. This flexibility allows enterprises with XaaS capabilities to deploy new technologies faster and enables the automation of infrastructure as needed. 

2. Remote deployment: During the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for remote services and solutions skyrocketed. XaaS, which is delivered remotely on internet networks and public and private cloud environments, was perfectly positioned to help organizations. XaaS offered fast, remote implementation of applications and services that helped IT departments maintain business continuity during a difficult time. When the pandemic ebbed, most organizations with XaaS frameworks in place found them to be more efficient than their old business processes and kept them.

3. Reduced resources: Enterprise XaaS allows many organizations to reduce the resources that are needed to run their outdated IT infrastructure. With more workloads in the cloud, outdated hardware like onsite data centershard disk drives (HDDs) and servers are redundant.

4. Increased efficiencies: Moving workloads to the cloud helps organizations streamline their business processes and make them more cost-effective. In a cloud model, IT staff can be reallocated from maintenance to more strategic projects and technical support. Common IT services that can be outsourced under XaaS include provisions, upgrades and troubleshooting.

5. Faster digital transformation: XaaS models allow enterprises to quickly adopt new technologies and stay on the cutting edge of their industries. This speedy adoption of cloud services is primarily felt in IT, where XaaS’ enhanced scalability allows users to access new technologies faster through the cloud, smoothing the road to innovation.

Challenges of XaaS

While the business benefits of adopting a XaaS approach are compelling, it also brings challenges that enterprises need to be aware of.

1. Resiliency: Since all applications, services and solutions in a XaaS framework depend on the cloud and a strong internet connection, any disruptions in connectivity can cause problems.

2. Transparency: Enterprises that move their core capabilities and services to the cloud don’t have full visibility into vendors’ operating practices and infrastructure.

3. Dependence: CSPs and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that form the foundation of XaaS models can be acquired, go out of business or suffer several other disruptions like any other business. Enterprises choosing a CSP or MSP should carefully consider their history and dependability before agreeing to any long-term commitment with them.

4. Security: Often, the security of customer, client and user data is a top concern of enterprises making the shift to a XaaS model. Every day, new headlines detail cybersecurity issues and data breaches at top companies. If a third-party vendor, such as an MSP or CSP, suffers a security breach, it can put its customers’ data and reputation at risk. 

How does XaaS work?

To effectively deploy XaaS capabilities across their organization, business leaders need to adopt a deliberate and thoughtful approach. Employees who have been performing their tasks one way for years are often naturally resistant to change, even if they know it makes business sense. Enterprises should keep in mind that XaaS works best with user buy-in and that can take time and patience.

Here’s a step-by-step approach that enterprises can take to help them implement XaaS effectively:

Define your objective

Before even planning for a XaaS deployment, business leaders should talk to stakeholders and articulate what they hope to achieve. Digital transformation, cost reductions and increased innovation are some common examples of benefits that are well within the reach of XaaS implementations.

Build a strategy

A common mistake that enterprises anxious to switch to a XaaS model make is trying to migrate everything to the cloud at once. Some infrastructures are easier and faster to migrate than others, and having a well-thought-out strategy for each service, application or solution is critical.

Prepare stakeholders

When critical services and business processes change, it can impact everyone in a company. From clients and users of your products and services to employees, managers and C-suite executives, make sure everyone is aware of how the move to XaaS will affect them. If employees or customers require special training, make sure that they have access to it and any additional resources they might need to get up and running on a XaaS framework.

Choose the right MSP or CSP

Choosing the right vendors for your XaaS implementation is arguably the most important step in this process. When choosing a vendor, ensure they have a strong history of implementation and support, especially when deploying new infrastructure that must connect with existing infrastructure. Risk mitigation is another significant capability to look for. Strong XaaS providers should be fully versed in DRaaS practices and have data backup protocols in place.

Identify your KPIs

Once your XaaS framework has been up and running for some time, you’ll want to have a clear way of measuring its performance. Key performance indicators (KPIs) help measure the success of your XaaS implementation. KPIs can include several key benefits you expect to achieve from XaaS, such as reductions in costs, improved efficiencies and increased innovation. 

Examples of XaaS

XaaS is a wide-ranging term that covers various services and solutions enterprises need to function. From the widely popular SaaS to the lesser-known containers as a service (CaaS), many popular services and solutions support a XaaS framework.

Software as a service (SaaS)

Software as a service (SaaS) is application software hosted on the cloud and used over an internet connection by way of a web browser or mobile app. SaaS providers are responsible for the operation, management and maintenance of SaaS applications, and the customer or client typically subscribes on a month-by-month basis. SaaS is the most popular and widely implemented XaaS service, with examples that include applications used by millions of people every day, such as Zoom, Slack, Adobe Creative Cloud (ACM) and more.  

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is a form of cloud computing that delivers IT infrastructure resources like compute, servers, virtual machines, network and storage to consumers on a subscription basis. IaaS is incredibly popular among enterprises looking for help with reaching their digital transformation goals because it allows them to scale resources up and down easily. Some of the most popular IaaS use cases include data backup and recoveryweb hosting and hybrid multicloud adoption.

Platform as a service (PaaS)

PaaS is a cloud computing model that gives customers the hardware, software and infrastructure they need for developing, running and managing applications in the cloud. PaaS providers host the necessary servers, networks, storage, databases, software and operating systems (OS) and allow customers to use them for a fee. PaaS’ popularity among modern enterprises is largely because PaaS allows customers to build, test, deploy, run, update and scale applications more quickly and inexpensively than if they had had to build out and manage their own on-premises platform.

Database as a service (DBaaS)

DBaaS, also known as managed database service, is a kind of XaaS that lets users access and use a cloud database system without purchasing and setting up their own hardware or installing their own database software. In a DBaaS model, the CSP takes care of everything from periodic upgrades to backups to ensuring that the database system remains available and secure around the clock.

Containers as a service (CaaS)

CaaS is a type of XaaS that allows developers to manage and deploy containerized applications, giving businesses of all sizes access to portable, easily scalable cloud solutions. Containerized applications comprise software code packaged with just the OS libraries and dependencies required to run it. They are agile, executable units that can run on virtually any IT infrastructure.

Desktop as a service (DaaS)

Desktop as a service (DaaS) is a way of delivering complete virtual desktop environments to users, including an OS, applications, files and user preferences from the cloud. In this kind of XaaS model, the desktops run in virtual machines that are hosted on compute, storage and network infrastructure managed by the cloud provider.

Function as a service (FaaS)

Function as a service (FaaS) is a cloud-computing service that allows customers to run code in response to events without managing the complex infrastructure typically associated with building and starting microservices applications. Hosting a software application on the internet typically requires provisioning and managing a virtual or physical server. With FaaS, the physical hardware, virtual machine operating system and web server software management are all handled automatically by the cloud service provider.

Storage as a service (STaaS)

Storage as a service (STaaS) is a managed service in which customers purchase access to a data storage platform like Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud. STaaS is often delivered in a public cloud under a pay-as-you-go subscription model but can also be purchased by a single customer and set up as an on-premises environment. 

Related solutions
IBM Hybrid Cloud Solutions

Move your cloud and AI journey forward with IBM Hybrid Cloud Solutions. Start by evaluating IT investments and designing an open, integrated foundation that can be accessed quickly and consistently across digital environments.

Explore IBM Hybrid Cloud Solutions

IBM IT Infrastructure Modernization Solutions

Modernize applications, servers and storage in place, at your own pace, to integrate seamlessly with hybrid cloud and AI. IBM IT Infrastructure Modernization Solutions help enterprises modernize incrementally by building cloud-natively and integrating IBM Cloud® Paks containerized microservices into flexible, scalable and secure mainframes, servers and storage that are all designed with AI and for hybrid cloud

Learn more about IBM IT Infrastructure Modernization Solutions

IBM Storage for Hybrid Cloud

IBM Storage for Hybrid Cloud empowers you to deploy cloud architectures on-premises and extend them seamlessly to public cloud environments. Stop maintaining and start innovating by taking control of your hybrid cloud environments. 

Experience IBM Hybrid Cloud Storage

Resources What are Iaas, Paas and Saas?

Learn more about IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, the three most popular types of cloud service offerings. They are sometimes referred to as cloud service models or cloud computing service models.

What is software as a service (SaaS)?

Discover the benefits of software as a service (SaaS), application software hosted on the cloud and used over an internet connection by way of a web browser, mobile app or thin client.

What is automation?

Find out more about automation, the application of technology, programs, robotics or processes to achieve outcomes with minimal human input. See how it's becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the modern world, with applications as far-ranging as business process automation (BPA), AIOps and enterprise automation.

What is IT infrastructure?

Find out more about Information technology (IT) infrastructure, the components needed for the operation and management of enterprise IT services and IT environments.

What is a data center?

Learn more about data centers, physical rooms, buildings or facilities that house IT infrastructure for building, running and delivering applications and services.

What is artificial intelligence (AI)?

Explore artificial intelligence (AI), the cutting edge technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.

Take the next step

Move your cloud and AI journey forward with IBM hybrid cloud solutions. Start by evaluating IT investments and designing an open, integrated foundation that can be accessed quickly and consistently across digital environments.

Explore IBM Hybrid Cloud Solutions