The Trouble with Defining the Cloud


Confusion about cloud computing continues to dominate the landscape. For instance, during a recent Wakefield Research survey, only 16% of the respondents were able to correctly define the cloud. A stat that is made even more alarming when you consider that 29% of the survey respondents thought the cloud was somehow related to weather.

Even if you are not among those 29%, and instead have a working definition of what “cloud computing” means, your definition can still be at complete odds with someone else’s: And the trouble is both of you could be right.

And why is that? The cloud is available in an array of services and platforms. From hybrid to public to private and from SaaS to PaaS to IaaS, providers and buyers are using each of these terms when they describe the cloud.

The confusion begins because even though these services are often lumped under the cloud umbrella, they cannot be used interchangeably. A private cloud is certainly not the same as a public cloud, and SaaS and cloud computing can sometimes refer to two completely separate concepts.

The Merriam-Webster Cloud Computing Definition

As is so often the case, one of the best ways to get a better understanding about something’s meaning is to consult the dictionary. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, cloud computing is “the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet.”

Unfortunately, that definition seems to create more confusion, leaving a number of unanswered questions, including:

  • Are the resources shared by a group?
  • Is there a private infrastructure?
  • Who is responsible for maintenance? Upgrades?
  • Is the cloud hosted by a third party?
  • Can the cloud communicate with other non-virtualized environments and applications?
  • How secure is the cloud from outside threats?
  • Etc…

The simplest answer to any of those question is that it depends - It depends on which solution, which hardware and which provider you choose. For example, Expedient, which has built their cloud solutions using a foundation of leading Intel® Xeon® processors, is able to design a solution to match your business needs – regardless of whether you are in need of the elasticity and security of a private cloud or the scalability and cost effectiveness of a public cloud.

So the next time you are asked to define cloud computing, don’t be afraid. There are so many competing definitions and chances are you are bound to get part of it right.