Cloud Computing Defined

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What does Cloud Computing mean?

Confusion among the masses

As this technology has grown in popularity, the term cloud computing has meant something different among users, providers, academic scholars, and government officials. While users may think that any de-localization of data and software is cloud computing, providers may use the term in a very liberal way for marketing purposes. Academic scholars may take a very narrow view and consider cloud computing as that aspect of computing technology that is treated as a utility like electricity. Government officials may seek a very precise definition of cloud computing in its efforts to establish acquisition contracts with vendors in order to bring order to its vast computing assets.

The Federal Government forges a path

In order to alleviate the confusion, the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy gave the role for establishing a foundation of understanding and body of knowledge of cloud computing for both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2011. This role is consistent with NIST’s statutory role under the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) (Badger et al, 2011; Badger, Grance, Patt-Corner, R., & Voas, 2012)

Cloud Computing defined

One of the first NIST sponsored products in support of its cloud computing work was the definition of cloud computing: “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction” (Mell & Grance, 2011).


Badger, L., Bohn, R., Chu, S., Hogan, M., Liu, F., Kaufman, V., … Leaf, D. (2011). US government Cloud computing technology Roadmap Volume II, Release 1.0 (draft): Useful information for cloud adopters (Special Publication No. 500-293). Gaithersburg, MD: National Institute of Standards and Technology. Retrieved from

Badger, M. L., Grance, T., Patt-Corner, R., & Voas, J. (2012). Cloud computing synopsis and recommendations ( No. NIST SP – 800-146) (p. 81). The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Retrieved from

Mell, P., & Grance, T. (2011). The NIST definition of Cloud computing. National Institute of Standards and Technology. Retrieved from


Jorge Esparza

I am a systems engineer working on software-intensive projects for the Federal Government and a PhD candidate working on a dissertation on Cloud Computing.

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