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cloud
computing
really
means
The next big
trend sounds
nebulous, but
it's not so
fuzzy when
you view the
value
proposition
from the
perspective of
IT
professionals
By Eric Knorr, Galen
Gruman | InfoWorld
Print | 25 comments
Cloud computing is all
the rage. "It's become
the phrase du jour,"
says Gartner senior
analyst Ben Pring,
echoing many of his
peers. The problem is
that (as with Web 2.0)
everyone seems to have
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definition -
Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the
Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service
(IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The name cloud
computing was inspired by the cloud symbol that's often used to represent the Internet in
flowcharts and diagrams.
A cloud service has three distinct characteristics that differentiate it from traditional hosting. It is
sold on demand, typically by the minute or the hour; it is elastic -- a user can have as much or as
little of a service as they want at any given time; and the service is fully managed by the provider
(the consumer needs nothing but a personal computer and Internet access). Significant
innovations in virtualization and distributed computing, as well as improved access to high-speed
Internet and a weak economy, have accelerated interest in cloud computing.
What are you interested in learning more about?
a. Building a private cloud
b. Using the cloud for development and testing
c. Security and the cloud
d. Understanding cloud computing pricing
A cloud can be private or public. A public cloud sells services to anyone on the Internet.
(Currently, Amazon Web Services is the largest public cloud provider.) A private cloud is a
proprietary network or a data center that supplies hosted services to a limited number of people.
When a service provider uses public cloud resources to create their private cloud, the result is
called a virtual private cloud. Private or public, the goal of cloud computing is to provide easy,
scalable access to computing resources and IT services.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service like Amazon Web Services provides virtual server instanceAPI) to
start, stop, access and configure their virtual servers and storage. In the enterprise, cloud
computing allows a company to pay for only as much capacity as is needed, and bring more
online as soon as required. Because this pay-for-what-you-use model resembles the way
electricity, fuel and water are consumed, it's sometimes referred to as utility computing.
Platform-as-a-service in the cloud is defined as a set of software and product development tools
hosted on the provider's infrastructure. Developers create applications on the provider's platform
over the Internet. PaaS providers may use APIs, website portals or gateway software installed on
the customer's computer. Force.com, (an outgrowth of Salesforce.com) and GoogleApps are
examples of PaaS. Developers need to know that currently, there are not standards for
interoperability or data portability in the cloud. Some providers will not allow software created
by their customers to be moved off the provider's platform.
In the software-as-a-service cloud model, the vendor supplies the hardware infrastructure, the
software product and interacts with the user through a front-end portal. SaaS is a very broad
market. Services can be anything from Web-based email to inventory control and database
processing. Because the service provider hosts both the application and the data, the end user is
free to use the service from anywhere.
See also: hybrid cloud, cloud backup
Learn more about Cloud Computing Resources
• Cloud Cover TV Archive
Archive - CloudCoverTV covers the latest, juciest and most critical news in the cloud
computing market every week.
• Back editions: Cloudy with a chance of...
Archive - The staff at SearchCloudComputing.com share their weekly opinions on the
latest cloud computing news and updates.

last updated28 Dec 2007

Do you have something to add to this definition? Let us know.


Send your comments to techterms@whatis.com
More resources from around the web:
-
Princeton University is now offering workshops in cloud computing.
-
Linda Tucci wrote that "Cloud computing will follow you everywhere" at SearchCIO.com.
-
George Gilder wrote about the dawning of the "Petabyte Age" and the Internet cloud in the pages
of "Wired Magazine."
-
Erica Naone posits that cloud computing could bridge the digital divide in MIT's "Technology
Review."
-
At Rough Type, Nick Carr explains why he thinks cloud computing is the future of personal
computing.
-
See a quick and simple explanation of enterprise cloud computing in this video.
-
Aaron Ricadela compiled a short primer on how cloud computing works for "Business Week."
-
John Markoff described Microsoft's cloud computing strategy in the pages of the New York
Times.

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Related Glossary Terms
Terms from Whatis.com − the technology online dictionary
• XaaS (anything as a service) (searchCloudComputing.com)
XaaS is a collective term that stands for a number of things including X as a service,
anything as a service or everything as a service. The acronym refers to any of an
increasing number of services provided over the Internet that have been traditionally
provided locally.
• public cloud (searchCloudComputing.com)
A public cloud is one based on the standard cloud computing model, in which a service
provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general
public over the Internet. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-usage
model. (Continued)
• private cloud (searchCloudComputing.com)
Private cloud (also called internal cloud) is a marketing term for an enterprise computing
architecture that's protected by a firewall. Promotion of the private cloud model is
designed to appeal to an organization that wants more control over their data than they
can get by using a third-party hosted service such as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud
(EC2) or Simple Storage Service (S3). (Continued)
What cloud computing really means
The next big trend sounds nebulous, but it's not so fuzzy
when you view the value proposition from the perspective of
IT professionals
By Eric Knorr, Galen Gruman | InfoWorld
Print | 25 comments
Cloud computing is all the rage. "It's become the phrase du jour," says Gartner senior analyst
Ben Pring, echoing many of his peers. The problem is that (as with Web 2.0) everyone seems to
have a different definition.
As a metaphor for the Internet, "the cloud" is a familiar cliché, but when combined with
"computing," the meaning gets bigger and fuzzier. Some analysts and vendors define cloud
computing narrowly as an updated version of utility computing: basically virtual servers
available over the Internet. Others go very broad, arguing anything you consume outside the
firewall is "in the cloud," including conventional outsourcing.
[ Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud
computing in InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report,
then go deeper in our Server Virtualization Deep Dive. | Stay up on the cloud with
InfoWorld's Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]
Cloud computing comes into focus only when you think about what IT always needs: a way to
increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training
new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based
or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT's existing capabilities.

Cloud computing is at an early stage, with a motley crew of providers large and small delivering
a slew of cloud-based services, from full-blown applications to storage services to spam filtering.
Yes, utility-style infrastructure providers are part of the mix, but so are SaaS (software as a
service) providers such as Salesforce.com. Today, for the most part, IT must plug into cloud-
based services individually, but cloud computing aggregators and integrators are already
emerging.
InfoWorld talked to dozens of vendors, analysts, and IT customers to tease out the various
components of cloud computing. Based on those discussions, here's a rough breakdown of what
cloud computing is all about: