Redefining cloud computing -- again

Hype, misuse, and misplaced aspirations have clouded the term's definition. Here's what it's really about

Back in August, I declared the term "cloud computing" officially meaningless because of its extensive overuse and misuse. No matter what a vendor sold, it was somehow "cloud computing." These days, when somebody wants me to define "cloud computing," I fight the urge to eject them from the conference room. It's so widely defined, and thus so vague, that providing a crisp definition is nearly impossible.

More disturbing, there seems to be an increasing overuse of cloud computing concepts as saviors for all past IT mistakes. Pushing cloud computing as the way to solve all, or even most, computing problems reveals those who make such statements as less than credible.

[ Read InfoWorld's seminal definition of cloud computing. | In the data center today, the action is in the private cloud. InfoWorld's experts take you through what you need to know to do it right in our "Private Cloud Deep Dive" PDF special report. | Also check out our "Cloud Security Deep Dive," our "Cloud Storage Deep Dive," and our "Cloud Services Deep Dive." ]

So what the heck is cloud computing? The definition I use is also the National Instutute for Standards and Technology's take on the concept and technology. It's been repeated so many times in so many presentations over the last few years that I'm not going to say it again here. However, the NIST definition is not the end of the matter: So many design and architectural patterns are emerging around the concept of cloud computing that it's difficult to fit everything into NIST's definition. I'm counting well past 100.

Again, what is cloud computing?

The concept of cloud computing is about the ability for organizations to stop solving all IT problems by themselves. It's certainly about sharing resources, such as storage and compute services, but it really should be more about sharing solutions and pushing risk out of the business. Unfortunately, the focus today is on the tactical side of sharing computing resources. I hope in a few years that it will be more about the impact to a business rather than how the technology is defined.

Perhaps the best definition is around how cloud computing, or whatever you want to call it, will redefine how we consider and use technology to make us better at doing whatever we do, not how we should change around the addition of yet another technology concept. We've been there, done that, and have the T-shirt.

I'll let you know when I find just the right definition. For now, at least I know what I'm looking for.

This article, "Redefining cloud computing -- again," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

From CIO: 8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.