Why is Cloud computing so hard to define anyways?

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Sure, cloud computing is here and it sure is the next big IT wave, but what is it really and how do you know if you’re using it?

I just returned from the Cloud Computing Association conference where I was able to participate on a cloud computing panel discussion with some professors, consultants and government IT professionals. By the way, someone really needs to educate IT people on panel discussion etiquette. They are meant to include a healthy exchange of differing viewpoints, not everyone taking turns presenting power point slides on their own views; but I’m wandering away from my point…

What came out of this panel discussion was that the overwhelming opinion is the US government has the ball when it comes to defining cloud computing and what’s more, the government has a clear working definition! Aren’t these the same guys who tried to define obscenity? In 1964, Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain what is obscene, by saying, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . but “I know it when I see it”?

If you would like to actually go and see the whole definition for yourself you’ll want to go to the National Institute of Standards and Technology – US department of Commerce site, but basically it boils down to this:

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models…”

The 5 Essential Characteristics of Cloud Computing
1. On-demand self-service
2. Broad network access
3. Resource pooling
4. Rapid elasticity
5. Measured Service

The 3 Service Models of Cloud Computing
1. Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS)
2. Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS)
3. Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

4 Deployment Models of Cloud Computing
1. Private cloud
2. Community cloud
3. Public cloud
4. Hybrid cloud

Oh and as Steve Jobs used to say – one more thing! These clouds can be on-premise (managed by you) of off-premise (managed by someone else).

And that’s not even all of it! This definition literally goes on for two pages, not exactly straightforward is it? So I pose again the questions that started this blog, what is cloud computing really and how do you know if you’re using it?

When the internet was new and we first started logging onto it was there similar confusion? Was there a pages long definition of what it meant to be on the internet? I don’t think so! With the original dial-up (connecting to the Internet by a phone line) you got some noisy buzzing and then a high pitched constant tone for success; plain and simple. With the sounding of that tone you were now on the internet and ready to surf, you knew it for sure. Maybe that’s what we need for the cloud – an easily recognizable sound or symbol that comes through or shows up on our devices every time you connect to a cloud. So that like the high pitched constant tone of internets past , there would be no confusion that you were in the cloud.

With all this in mind, I think it is clear that we need to shore up the definition to make it so even a non IT executive can understand it (and its many different combinations ).

I propose this new and simpler definition:

“Cloud Computing is a business model based on a computer platform delivering an on-demand self service user experience”

Opposing viewpoints are welcome…

I look forward to future blogs where we dig deeper into clouds, or what we think are clouds or could be clouds.

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  • John Aebi

    12 years ago

    The cloud computing is one of the best updates in the world of technology in recent past. Yet, there might be some limitations. Thanks for this informative article.

  • Alejandro Ortiz

    11 years ago

    Very interesting article. I put a reference in my first blog entry. I’d be glad if you gave me your oppinion about it:

  • If we consider what we were doing without cloud computing and what it offers to each business now we have to say technology is changing for the better and offers so much to the end user.

    A lot of questions are being asked over the security of cloud computing, but this is getting more solid as technology evolves.

    We also have to look at how much it can save companies not having to use massive servers to back up Data and now have the option to view their Data from anywhere in the world.

    This is a great-post talking about a big subject and you have covered the subject very well.

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