What is a Cloud?

September 30, 2010

What is a Cloud? This seems like a simple question that would have a simple answer. If you ask this question amongst your “techie” friends you will find similar yet different definitions on what cloud computing actually is. I can say this because it just recently happened to me and it turned out to be a very interesting conversation. There is no single industry accepted definition as of yet so here is my take on what cloud computing is.

Cloud computing is accessing IT resources that are owned and operated by a third-party provider in one or more data centers such as SoftLayer. They feature on-demand provisioning (as fast as 5 minutes at SoftLayer) and pay as you go billing with minimal upfront investment. It is a great way to deliver cost effective computing power over the Internet. It will minimize capital expense and tie operating expense to actual use. I do think that many cloud offerings are really no more than your common managed hosting being marketed as clouds.

Cloud services can be categorized into different models such as Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas). There are also two types of deployment models. You can have a public cloud which is a “multi-tenant” environment. The physical servers are shared among multiple customers of the cloud. The other type of deployment is the private cloud. Only one customer would be utilizing the physical server or servers.

That is my definition of “what is a cloud.” A wise man once told me that cloud computing is really nothing more than another pricing model and delivery model.