It's pointless to define cloud computing

ISO joins the list of organizations looking to define cloud computing for the industry -- but it doesn't matter


The International Standards Organization (ISO) has released two new standards for cloud computing in an attempt to put some order around the loose terminology in cloud computing.

If you think you’ve seen this movie before, you’re right. The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) did much the same a few years back, with a final version released in September 2011. NIST defined cloud computing as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources ... that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

Is there anything new with the ISO definition? Not really. It calls cloud computing an “evolving paradigm” and includes key concepts such as broad network access, measured service, multitenancy, on-demand self-service, rapid elasticity and scalability, and resource pooling. ISO defines new subcategories, but we’ve seen some of those already.

The truth is that cloud computing is nearly impossible to define in the context of a shifting and changing market for which vendors have invested more than $15 billion to market their "cloud" technology. That's the real cause of the constant redefining and the resulting confusion.

What ISO is trying to do is certainly noble. But it's an impossible task at the detail level, at least until the market settles down. The truth is that the market itself -- not a standards body -- defines cloud computing.

Today, cloud computing is so widely defined and far-reaching that it means everything, so it means nothing. I know what cloud computing is -- you probably do too -- but that's a personal definition. Still, a personal definition is the best definition that I can think of.

Let’s stop focusing on what cloud computing is, and focus more on what cloud computing does. That’s a more productive conversation.

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