The same question continues to be asked about Cloud computing: what is Cloud computing?
The IT industry seems more confused than ever before as it struggles to define and pigeon hole this disruptive change and there seems little agreement or consensus on what Cloud computing actually is.
In the US, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) attempted to alliviate the situation by putting out a definition – but this is now in version 15, has more than 760 words, includes five characteristics, three service models and four deployment models. It also comes with a disclaimer that, in essence, says their definition is likely to change. So they don't really know how to define what Cloud computing is because it is a changing paradigm.
Presenters at Cloud conferences cannot resist putting up their own new definitions, when Web search engines are queried on ‘what is Cloud computing' they return an increasing number of new results each day and the tweets continue to scroll down with many different viewpoints as the pro and ante Cloud camps continue to posit their own new theories and definitions.
On top of all this, many vendors are simply taking their existing services and products such as hosting, outsourcing and co-location and rebranding them as a ‘Cloud' product which means that their definition of Cloud is translated into ‘our product'.
But while the IT industry grapples with the definition and argues amongst itself about whether this is something new or just a fad or hype, many in the industry are also just sitting back to see what happens. Sadly they may be missing the real point that this Cloud computing disruption is not about a technology, it is not about a product, it is not about a service offering, it is not something that we have always done, it is not even about a deployment model, rather it is a transformation, a paradigm shift and a change in attitude and behavior that is occurring under their very noses.
Customer's attitudes and behaviors towards how they want to buy IT are changing forever and this is the real transformation that is occurring. Sadly, many vendors may not be prepared for it.
Despite the criticism here of the various attempts to define Cloud computing, some much-needed thought leadership comes from Simon Wardley of CSC's Leading Edge Forum in the UK, who bravely adds his definition of Cloud computing to the confused mix:
"Cloud Computing is a generic term used to describe the disruptive transformation in I.T. towards a service based economy driven by a set of economic, cultural and technological conditions".
Cloud computing is a fundamental shift of the IT industry from a product based industry to a services based industry driven by factors other than just technology and products. This lifts the current thinking of Cloud computing out of the technology product space and into the realms of economics and culture, attitude and behaviour.
Looking deeper into Simon's definition and his thinking on this, we find that he also presents the best comparative analogy of Cloud computing …the industrial revolution.