Chris J Powell

Defining Cloud Computing

Depending on who you ask, on what day and the mood they are in you could quite likely get a different answer to “What is Cloud Computing” every time.  That makes it a challenge for both Service Providers and for customers of those Service Providers to have a good understanding of what is…and what is not the Cloud.  A colleague of mine at work once used the definition of the Cloud as “Not Here”, that is pretty broad but goes a long way to really put what the Cloud is, thanks John Sloan!

The Cloud can make a Small Business very competitive by enabling rapid growth because of the Pay per Use model that comes with it…but is there a point that it no longer just makes sense to throw money at the situation or does it make sense to bring it in house and sustain that growth with in house process? The wonderful world of Cost Benefit Analysis comes into play and one needs to focus on the Economy of the Cloud.

For the purpose of today’s post though I am more looking at sharing a recognized and reputable starting point for understanding what the Cloud is.  It, like every other technology that becomes popular with morph and change over time to something else but at this moment the best and most condensed definition comes from the National Institute of Standards and Technology with their 2011 White Paper titled “The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing“.

The White Paper is a svelt 7 pages long (although as a good Government Documentation the preamble goes on for 5 of the 7 pages) so it is not some of the monster reads that I have linked to in the past but is a really good primer to help to set a common “Standard” when it comes to what the Cloud is.

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.

So lets take a quick look at the opening lines of the document.

Cloud Computing is an on-demand network of shared resources that can be managed and provisioned easily with minimal service provider interaction.  This is all to true as Cloud Services are not only a saving grace for many of my smaller customers who have faced shrinking budgets and smaller departments for years now…but at the same time the double edged sword of this is that ANYONE can set this stuff up.  I am not sure that most companies would really want Susie in Accounting, Fred in Sales and Mary in HR to all have setup an account with the same Cloud provider, because they had a need, a company credit card and not have at least had a discussion with IT about they why, how, where and when of the project they are facing.

The challenge always seems to be when a token like RQB6WF9N823G is built by a provider for security purposes but there is no central repository or understanding of where that information is coming from that there is huge potential for loss and liability if there is not common communication.

Defining the Cloud is one thing…Explaining it is another.


Chris J Powell

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