There’s a reason for the angst elicited by inaccurate definitions of cloud computing and it may lead to rethinking a laissez-faire view of such definitions.

angry_woman Language impacts our perception and can dramatically change the way we understand – or don’t understand – ideas. Because one of the primary uses of language is to present arguments or assert propositions such as “We need to allocate X percent of our budget to a cloud computing initiative” it makes it important that everyone involved in the conversation agrees on basic meanings and definitions. This is one of the reasons I, at least, have a conniption whenever someone who is attempting to educate people on a particular technological concept completely misses the ball. If we don’t clearly articulate what is and is not cloud computing the danger is that business-stakeholders and end-users will see cloud computing as nothing all that difficult, or nothing spectacular..we are in danger of the folks who often fund such initiatives not “getting it.” Language is our common ground, or at least it’s supposed to be.

The following grossly inaccurate definition is brought to you by Reading Eagle. Its “What is cloud computing?” article asserts that “84% of Americans use cloud computing in some form.” Then goes on to explain in more depth (and I use that phrase loosely and intentionally to prove a point):

blockquote When you upload your video to YouTube, your pictures to Flickr, your status to Facebook, the cloud is where it goes.

More technically, cloud computing is the platform for delivering software, applications and information through the Internet via remote servers, banks of computers and digital storage in buildings made for the purpose.

This is a very nice, simple definition of … the Internet. Not cloud computing, but the Internet. If a business initiative owner had read this (or one of any other number of inaccurate, over-simplified definitions coming from what are allegedly trusted, reputable business sources) and then was asked to fund a cloud computing initiative, it might very well be the case that they would deny the request because from their point of view, IT already has and does cloud computing.

Bill Cosby was making a joke out of teaching children the “wrong” definitions. While funny in a hypothetical situation, in a real situation it would be, of course, disastrous for the child. Similarly, teaching business stakeholders and technological philistines the incorrect meaning of technology concepts, especially those that may have as dramatic effect on the budget and architecture of IT, is just as disastrous as it threatens the ability of IT and the business to align on the need for at least some – if not all – of the technological concepts and architectures required for cloud computing. This includes many CxOs, who are just as confused by the definition of cloud as many of their business counterparts. Just because you’re an expert in one area of technology does not mean you’re automatically an expert in all other areas of technology, and that’s especially true of emerging technologies.