According to the definition of cloud computing used by Avanade for a recently released and often cited study on the use of cloud computing, I could claim to be a cloud computing provider. And so could you. Basically, so could just about everyone who happens to run web-based applications accessed over the Internet.

From the summary of the report:

In the midst of widespread economic turmoil, this global survey of C-level executives and IT decision-makers shows a clear, collective mandate: use technology to cut the cost of doing business.

So far so good. Absolutely.

Moreover, these decision-makers widely recognize a new technology option, Cloud Computing, as a viable way to reduce capital expenditures and operational costs.

Yup, yup. All true. Cloud is a viable option for reducing both capital expenditures and operational costs.

Cloud computing refers to the delivery of software and other technology services over the Internet by a service provider.

Whoa there. Wait a minute. Wha? Did you just say what I think you said?

Here’s where it gets crazy. “The delivery of software and other technology services over the Internet by a service provider.”

So if I deliver software over the Internet and am a service provider (the definition of which is fail-shipment completely lacking in bounds as well) then I’m doing cloud computing. The level of fail required to make this broad of a statement in regards to cloud computing goes beyond epic. No wonder the study shows C-level executives aren’t all that interested in cloud; they probably weren’t even sure what was meant by “cloud” in that context. 

This is the kind of vague definition that leads folks to call Google Gmail, Windows Live, and Facebook “the cloud”. None of these three services are cloud computing, they are what they are: web applications. Period. They aren’t even really Software as a Service (SaaS) because that implies some level of responsibility to the end-user in providing SLAs and availability and the exchange of money. And the recent outages suffered by GMail clearly show that these aspects of SaaS are not part of the ToS (Terms of Service) for the application’s users. Slapping a Web 2.0 API on a web application and providing some basic integration with other Web 2.0 services does not a cloud make.

Cloud is about who and how more than it is about what the end result may be and from where it is delivered. The end result of cloud computing, of all computing endeavors, is an application. That application may be embedded in hardware or a virtual image or deployed on an application server, but it’s still an application. That does not make it cloud computing even if it is delivered over the Internet by a service provider.

It’s the who and the how that make cloud what it is. Cloud is about the infrastructure and the way it is leveraged to provide scalability in the most financially and technically efficient manner. Cloud is about who the end-user of those “technology services” really is, and in almost every case the end-user of cloud computing is not the application consumer, it’s developers and administrators; it’s an organization. The fact that the infrastructure is abstracted such that the end-user doesn’t need to worry/care/think about it doesn’t change the fact that cloud computing is about the way in which infrastructure – network, application, and storage – is leveraged and shared to provide a scalable, dynamic environment.

Cloud computing is about who the end-user is (developers, administrators, organizations) and how all infrastructure is leveraged (transparently, on-demand) and has about as much to do with application consumers as the driver of a car has to do with the manufacturing process.

There’s a whole lot more to cloud than just delivering a web application, and anyone claiming to be “cloud” clearly with the intention of simply riding that hype train for free is doing the industry and the technology a disservice.

Follow me on Twitter View Lori's profile on SlideShare friendfeedicon_facebook AddThis Feed Button Bookmark and Share