The elevator pitch for cloud computing is a tricky one. In recent weeks I've found myself, when asked, struggling to define the cloud to the average user. Sure, many people in and around IT, or who like to keep up with the latest trends are aware of cloud computing - but what about the rest? I'm referring to the average Internet user, technologically able and even skilled - just not in and around IT.
My challenge, therefore, is to collect definitions of the cloud. The definition should be quite short. It should refrain from assuming familiarity with terms such as virtualization, elasticity, grid computing, etc.
How do YOU define cloud computing? Add your own definitions in the comments.
- Inspired by Nicholas Carr: Cloud computing is the new utility: in the early 1900s, people stopped generating power individually at home and hooked up to the large electrical utilities. In the early 2000s, people are switching over from running applications and servers individually and instead hooking up to large providers - the cloud. The logic behind producing electricity en masse now applies to computing.
- Cloud computing is outsourcing of IT - from applications and servers down to the server room itself. You usually pay only for what you use in practice and can scale up and down rapidly.
- Remember when you once used Outlook and now have a Gmail account? That was the cloud's first step. It's grown to encompass everything down to the server level: you don't need to own your own servers any more - you just rent computing power by the hour and someone else takes care of the dirty work.
- Utility computing is old - centralized mainframes and time-shared systems have been around for decades. Everything was managed at one location and you just had a dumb terminal. The reason that it's now back - big time - is that the Internet and high bandwidth mean it can be achieved on a massive, global scale like never before.
The following definitions are accurate, but probably inappropriate for a non-IT audience. I'm including them for completeness -
Cloud computing is a style of computing in which dynamically scalable
and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the
Internet. Users need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control
over the technology infrastructure "in the cloud" that supports them.
- Thorsten von Eicken: Most computer savvy folks actually have a pretty good idea of what the term "cloud computing" means: outsourced, pay-as-you-go, on-demand, somewhere in the Internet, etc."
- Jan Pritzker: Clouds are vast resource pools with on-demand resource allocation; Clouds are virtualized; Clouds tend to be priced like utilities.