Data Centers

Understand cloud computing terminology with this guide

What is the cloud? Rick Vanover found one of the best collections of definitions for cloud computing terms in a recent Burton Group publication, which is available as a free download.

Regardless of your level of interest, appreciation, or opinion of cloud computing, it is important that we at least agree on what we are talking about. Recently, I came across what I feel to be the most complete definition of cloud computing terms available provided by the Burton Group analyst firm.

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I was first exposed to this resource, which is a free preview for non-Burton Group clients, by Chris Wolf. Chris is a very experienced analyst for Burton Group, which I have had the opportunity to cross circles with in the blogosphere and other technical circles. The piece was written by Drue Reeves at Burton Group.

The Burton Group Cloud Computing Overview document provides definitions for many aspects of cloud computing. I highly recommend that you read this document and pay special attention to the definitions of cloud computing. This is on page 9 of the PDF document that is the free download from Burton Group.

Notable Points from the Burton Group Cloud Computing Overview publication include topics such as a firm definition of cloud computing:

"Burton Group defines cloud computing as: The set of disciplines, technologies, and business models used to render IT capabilities as on-demand services."

Further, many other key points of research include definitions of cloud terms that may include offerings that you don't necessarily associate immediately with cloud computing. This includes shared infrastructure, which is typically associated with leased data center space or co-location arrangements.

On-demand technologies are key to the cloud, and the paper provides a good definition of on-demand self-service. It is defined as "… the cloud customer's (i.e., consumer) ability to purchase and use cloud services as the need arises. In some cases, cloud vendors provide an application programming interface (API) that enables the consumer to programmatically (or automatically through a management application) consume a service."

Probably the most beneficial set of definitions in the document, however, are the criteria to define a public, private, internal, and external cloud. These key terms are critical to defining cloud requirements for your evaluation, as well as knowing what it is we may have as disagreements. The Cloud Computing Overview document is a free download from the Burton Group Web site. Check the document out and share your comments below on cloud computing definitions.


Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

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