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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Using NIST Definitions to Clarify the Cloud

The other day, I heard a new term used for cloud computing, "cloud washing."  Apparently this was coined by an analyst at Forrester Research to describe the practice of repackaging existing cloud concepts as something new or unique to a vendor.

This kind of marketing adds to the confusion surrounding the cloud.  In the zeal to be different, companies "repackage" information that is not different at all.  When this happens, companies often unwittingly put up a big caution flag for customers.  When an entire sector of companies employ the same marketing practice, customers simply stop in their tracks.

Fortunately, there is a standard set of definitions for various types of cloud computing. If you are confused by the hype, it might be helpful to rely on definitions put forth last year by the National Institute of Standards and Technlogy (NIST), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Fortunately, there seems to be a growing consensus around these definitions. Here is a summary of the NIST definitions for Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.

Service Models:
Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider's applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through a thin client interface such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email). The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.

Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages and tools supported by the provider. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly application hosting environment configurations.

Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, deployed applications, and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).

Deployment Models:
Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is operated solely for an organization. It may be managed by the organization or a third party and may exist on premise or off premise.

Community cloud. The cloud infrastructure is shared by several organizations and supports a specific community that has shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be managed by the organizations or a third party and may exist on premise or off premise.

Public cloud. The cloud infrastructure is made available to the general public or a large industry group and is owned by an organization selling cloud services.

Hybrid cloud. The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load-balancing between clouds).

We're interested in collecting examples of cloud washing,  If you have one, please post it here.

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