This term is banded around in the media, IT professionals and anyone else wanting to sound hip. What does it actually mean? Does anyone really know?

We recently conducted a poll amongst our users with exactly this question.

“Do you know what cloud computing is?”

Two thirds said the knew what it was. One third did not.

We then went on, asking those who said they knew what it meant to define it. Below are a few of the answers we received:

  • It is a virtual computer you log into remotely.
  • It’s pulling multiple computer resources to work on complex projects. SETI use it to search for aliens!!
  • It’s a very large and geographically distributed network of computers, capable of hosting any number of virtual servers, web apps, data, etc. As opposed to a fixed cluster of servers for a particular requirement. Resources for a particular application can be readily scaled up and down to suit demand.
  • Applications run across multiple servers owned by multiple vendors across the internet. So if one server goes down, applications/sites remain active.
  • Shared, distributed IT models connecting devices to services and information using a grid concept.
  • Your data/applications hosted and accessible from anywhere.
  • Encapsulation of applications.
  • Sharing Resources.
  • It is a thin client structure, where everything, files, software, etc is run from an external server and typically a web browser is used as an interface to the system
  • A scalable, often, but not necessarily virtualized, service usually served over the internet.
  • General term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet
  • Where all resources are shared and linked
  • It’s all out there man, in the air!
  • Internet based computing. Resources, processing and storage are provided by “the internet” that is, remotely to a given users terminal. Think electricity delivery.
  • Managed, remote, distributed computing, with a unified interface. This may include storage spanning hundreds of drives, processing spanning hundreds of CPUs or a combination of the two. Frequently these are presented as a large single storage unit, or parallel CPU. The platform may be used to run a service, software, storage or more complex systems such as virtual machines.
  • Load balancing on an epic scale – useful for websites where you really need massive amounts of uptime & processing power like ebay, but pointless for smaller websites.
  • A fantastic marketing term for a vast array of service all virtualized on the internet: essentially resulting in user being able to use a very basic PC
  • The Internet.

As you can see there is a great range of answers and none are ‘wrong’ as such, everyone has a different perception. “The Cloud” and “Cloud Computing” are very general terms, often used for marketing a product and can be different things to different products. So more importantly what are some key themes through these various definitions?

  • The internet
  • Flexibility
  • Scalability
  • Shared resources
  • Reliability

We have therefore come to a hopefully succinct and clear conclusion.

Cloud computing refers to systems on the internet that work around central shared resources that are flexible, scalable and are designed to be reliable.

That’s our bash at it – Any thoughts welcome!