The Definition of Cloud

Looking to adopt the cloud but not really sure what “cloud” actually means?! Don’t start your journey off on the wrong foot!

This article is part of the limited preview of the “The Missing Cloud Programme Roadmap”, a generic roadmap for any enterprise cloud adoption programme.

  1. Executive Summary
  2. The Cloud and Enterprises
  3. The Missing Cloud Programme Roadmap
    1. The Cloud Programme Roadmap
    2. The First Iteration of The Cloud Programme Roadmap
    3. The Unavoidable Disclaimer
    4. The Roadmap for The Missing Cloud Programme Roadmap
    5. The Manual for the Missing Manual
    6. Building the Business Case
      1. Key Achievements
      2. The Definition of Cloud
        1. The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing
        2. An Alternative Definition of Public Cloud
        3. The Organisation’s Definition
      3. The Rationale for the Cloud Programme
      4. Managing the Message
      5. Securing Regulatory Approval
      6. Connecting With Your Peers
      7. Recording Outcomes: The Cloud Manifesto
    7. Starting the Cloud Programme
    8. Iteratively Building the Delivery Pipeline
    9. Iteratively Executing the Delivery Pipeline
  4. A Cloudy Future

The Definition of Cloud

The main objective of The Missing Cloud Programme Roadmap is to help enterprise organisations successfully adopt the cloud. So, as with any good scientific approach, it should be rather clear by now what “the cloud” actually means?!

Well, up until this point, the definition of “the cloud” was vague at best, leaving it to the reader’s interpretation or imagination to fill in the gaps. Or come up with their own definition.

Unfortunately, this lack of clarity around a common and organisation-wide definition of “the cloud” or “cloud” in general is not uncommon. Even for organisations well into their journey to “the cloud”. Whatever that is to them then.

Without a common understanding of what “the cloud” or “cloud” is, it’s impossible to know what an organisation is actually supposed to be adopting.

For a non-scientific fun experiment, simply ask ten randomly selected employees from different areas of the organisation to provide their definition of “the cloud” in the context of the organisation. Then, compare the responses for a litmus test on the consensus of an organisation-wide definition of cloud.

The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing

A definition of “the cloud”, “cloud”, or “cloud computing” that is widely accepted throughout the industry is provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (in short: NIST) in their publication titled “The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing”.

“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.”

NIST Special Publication 800-145

The five essential characteristics are on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service. The three service models are Software as a Service (in short: SaaS), Platform as a Service (in short: PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (in short: IaaS). The four deployment models are Private Cloud, Community Cloud, Public Cloud, and Hybrid Cloud.

An Alternative Definition of Public Cloud

Given that a fair amount of organisations leveraging this roadmap might be interested in the adoption of “public cloud”, we’d like to provide a slightly different definition of the concept in a hopefully more familiar context.

Public cloud computing is distributed computing on the CSP API offerings. Following the CSP’s interpretations. And the CSP’s rules. Which may change at any point in time.

Note that with this definition, public cloud is merely another platform to host solutions built on and around well-known and (hopefully) well-understood distributed computing concepts.

However, the limiting factors here are the CSP API offerings as well as the CSP’s interpretation of distributed computing. Which can (and do) change from CSP to CSP. As well as over time.

The Organisation’s Definition

There are clear benefits to adopting a widely accepted definition of “the cloud”. The reality however is it that there’s a decent chance that an organisation might want to extend the definition to its specific needs or constraints. Every organisation can be special in its own way.

Regardless which definition of “the cloud” is eventually used, the most important thing is to actually have a common and organisation-wide definition of “the cloud”. Without one, the remainder of this roadmap becomes a moving target that’s nearly impossible to hit. Do not proceed without one! You have been warned!

The Rationale for the Cloud Programme

Find out more about it in the next article.

So, What’s Your Definition of Cloud?!

While the above Worx for Me!™ when it comes to the definition of cloud, you may have an alternative or better way.

Think this is all rubbish, massively overrated, or generally heading into the absolutely wrong direction?! Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn and teach me something new!

As always, prove me wrong and I’ll buy you a pint!


Dominic Dumrauf

An Enterprise Solution Architect by profession, an avid outdoor enthusiast by heart, and a passionate barista by choice. Still hunting that elusive perfect espresso.

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