The expression "cloud computing" is confusing a lot of people.
It means different things to many of the people who understand it, and those who do not understand it are having a hard time grasping what exactly it means. And then you get commentary that suggests it means nothing at all.
Cloud computing is a critical advancement in IT infrastructure. People talk about cloud computing because it means something to them; it's simply too new for all of us to have developed shared reference points that make each of us say, "A-ha! That is cloud computing."
Here are the three criteria I have for determining whether something is a cloud service or not:
- The service is accessible via a web browser (non-proprietary) or web services API.
- There is zero capital expenditure required to get started.
- You pay only for what you use as you use it.
The third criterion also implies that there is no ongoing commitment to the service once you are bored with it.
You may agree or disagree with those criteria. When I talk about cloud computing, that's what I mean.
I have chosen those three criteria because I think they capture the essence of what excites people about cloud services as opposed to other kinds of technology services.
What diverse service options qualify under these criteria?
- Amazon Web Services
- Google Apps/AdWords/Website Optimzer/*
When one person is talking about LinkedIn and another about Amazon Web Services, it can often seem that perhaps one party does not know what they are talking about or they are talking about two separate things. In these cases, however, most people are excited about the idea that they can just sign up and begin using the service using open web protocols. That's it. No IT investment, no long-term commitment, no risk at trying it out.