What Cloud Computing Really Means

Cloud computing is the latest fad. There is only one problem, it seems everyone has a different definition for what cloud computing really is.

The cloud is basically a metaphor for the internet. But, when you combine the cloud with “computing”, that meaning becomes a lot harder to define. Some critics define cloud computing as just an updated version of utility computing or simply virtual servers that are available over the internet. Then, other analysts say that anything you use outside of the firewalls is “in the cloud”.


Everything starts to come into focus when you think about what IT always needs; an easy way to raise the capacity on the fly without having to invest in new infrastructure, more training of personnel or needing to license new software. Cloud computing includes any subscription based or pay-per-use services that extends ITs current capabilities.

In its early stages cloud computing was a mixed group of providers that delivered a bunch of cloud based services, from full-scale applications to storage services to filtering spam. This included utility style infrastructure providers and SaaS (software as a service) providers. Now, IT has to plug into cloud based services individually.

Below is a rough list of what cloud computing is all about:

1. SaaS

This kind of cloud computing delivers an individual application through the browser to thousands of customers through a multitenant architecture. But, on the other side, it also means there is no upfront investment in the servers or software licensing. On the provider’s side, there is only one app to maintain so costs are low compared to traditional hosting.

2. Utility computing

This concept is not that new, but this form of cloud computing is getting new life on sites like Amazon and others that now offer storage and virtual servers that the IT department can access on demand. Early cloud adopters usually used utility computing for non-mission critical needs.

3. Web services in the cloud

This type of service is very similar to SaaS. The web service providers can offer APIs that can enable developers to utilize functionality over the internet instead of delivering a full-blown application.

4. Platform as a service

Yet another variation of SaaS is this type of cloud computing that delivers development environments as a service. You can build your own application that will run on the provider’s servers. These services are restricted by the vendor’s capabilities and design, so you will not get complete freedom, but you will get predictability.

5. MSP (managed service providers)

This is one of the oldest forms of cloud computing. It is a managed service that is, in essence, an application that is exposed to IT instead of to the end-users, like a virus scanning service for e-mail or an application monitoring service. Managed security services fall into this category, as do cloud based anti spam services.

6. Service commerce platforms

This is a hybrid of MSP and SaaS and offers a service hub that users can interact with. These types of platforms are common in trading environments like expense management systems that allows users to order secretarial or travel services from a common platform that will then coordinate the service delivery and pricing that are within the specs set by the user.

7. Internet integration

The unification of cloud based services is still in its early stages. Today, with the variety of cloud based services, cloud computing might be call “sky computing” because of the many isolated clouds and services which IT has to plug into individually.

In the end, it is hard to argue that cloud computing is here to stay. Cloud computing will continue to grow and flourish. What is next for cloud computing is anyone’s guess.