I've had a few discussions with venture capitalists of late regarding the assignment of the "cloud" label to start-ups pitching everything from hardware to--believe it or not--downloadable software clients.
It seems that just about every pitch these days is for "cloud computing," and the folks with the money are getting a little weary of it.
Before a Strategy Series dinner on cloud computing I participated in a couple of weeks ago, Lars Leckie of early stage venture firm Hummer Winblad made a point about this. He noted that just about everyone was trying to relate their product or service to cloud computing, and that the label had begun to lose any meaning on its own.
A big part of the problem is the now almost unresolvable definition of cloud computing. How do you define the term? My own definition has shifted over the years, to where I use the term quite ambiguously. It's kind of like that famous old quote about pornography obscenity from the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. The judge wisely noted: "I know it when I see it."
(Lorie MacVittie of F5 wrote a fabulous post about focusing on the "who and how" rather than "what and where" in "cloud-computing" definitions. I absolutely agree, though I have failed to find words that meet that objective to my satisfaction.)
If forced to give a written definition, I borrow a Cisco Systems' definition that bounds the problem, rather than defines it:
Cloud computing is IT resources and services that are abstracted from the underlying infrastructure and provided "on-demand" and "at scale" in a multi-tenant environment.
With this definition, I can at least say that content sites are almost never cloud computing. It is debatable whether or not something like World of Warcraft is an IT service, but your traditional enterprise and consumer-oriented SaaS applications, your PaaS offerings, and certainly your server and/or storage resources all very much count as cloud computing in this case.
At the very least, this definition is hard for anyone to find too specific.
What this definition fails to do, however, is give guidance to those trying to get at the heart of how a given "cloud" makes money. This is why it has become important to be specific about what kind of cloud service you are offering. Are you pitching Infrastructure as a service? Software as a Service? Cloud infrastructure management? … Read more