Tweak Your Biz » Technology » Why we’ll never be able to define Cloud Computing

Why we’ll never be able to define Cloud Computing

Don’t worry if you don’t understand what Cloud Computing is. You’re not meant to. By its nature a cloud of any type is something vague or ill-defined. Were it any different, Cloud Computing would simply evaporate.

The origin of the term Cloud Computing derives from early network design where a cloud represents what Douglas Adams once called an S.E.P. – Somebody Else’s Problem. It came about because network designers – used to meticulous modelling of the components, connectivity and contrivances of a network – had to link their carefully crafted network to somebody else’s. They were loath to describe the intricacies of somebody else’s network in as much loving detail as their own, so went about representing this incursion as a cloud.

Were they to describe in just a little bit more detail what exactly it is they were connecting to there would be no need to for a cloud. Just as today there would be no need for Cloud Computing if we really knew what it meant.

With a real cloud it’s possible to define it succinctly, such as ‘a visible mass of droplets suspended in the atmosphere’. No such joy with Cloud Computing. The often quoted NIST Definition of Cloud Computing runs to a couple of pages.

My argument is that in time the definition will become crystallised as being this or that, depending no doubt on the size of this or that’s marketing budget. And when it does become one thing or another, it will – by definition – no longer be a nebulous Cloud-like thing.

The Author:

Alistair is a Principal Consultant at Fujitsu in Dublin. He studied Artificial Intelligence at Middlesex University in London and built a career in Information Technology management and consultancy. In his spare time he creates and publishes classical and electronic music on his website

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  • Anonymous

    Little Miss-Understood
    Thanks for the words and greetings.
    Hope you are well:)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment Niall. Much appreciated.

  • I love it, the sublimal language is really well done. More people could do with using his topsy turvy way of being positive. Totally agree with Miriam this would make a great video blog too.

  • Anonymous

    I am still trying to source my Topsy Turvy outfit for the video blog..LOL. Glad you liked the post.

  • ha.. you really had me at your pre-post: WARNING. That’s the ironic of being a human, ah.. we all remember the story of the forbidden fruit right? Of course I read all the way till the end even though I have very little knowledge of our feathery friends. 🙂 I’m with McLaughlin here, scrolling through for an eagle.

    I considered myself more of a Robin, but hopefully in future to be a Wren: to grab hold of the opportunities and finish the job with wisdom, remained objective in all circumstances.

    Social/Blogging Tracker

  • Robins are great birds, they are focused and get things done, even if a little timid. They are survivors to the last 😉
    Thanks for reading and the comment Greg.

  • Yes indeed!
    However, it’s not often we see hawks in the garden, just as well, or I would be out of entertainment 😉
    A hawk has a keen eye and the speed and stamina needed to survive in harsh conditions.
    Fair play, and thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  • LOL – sorry tweet tweet!
    Thanks for reading and sharing the joke – gave me a spring giggle thanks Lewis

  • There are mostly many many finches, but they have been practically wiped out with disease. However, they persevere and always make a comeback.
    Thank for reading and sharing Niall

  • Wong Ching Ya
    thanks for the comment and sharing your insights.
    The eagle is not generally found in the garden, prefers open spaces from a height, similar to the hawk 🙂
    So you like to soar from above, and eye your prey with intent? Good for you.
    Meanwhile the other garden birds can only envy the robin and the wren, small but ferocious 🙂

  • I’m a turkey vulture:

  • ha.. dare not to think about prey just yet, but it’s the highest-flying bird: observant, can see things in great distance. I love to see the whole picture and not trapped within my limited knowledge. 🙂

    Thank you Elaine, this is one very encouraging post – a breath of fresh air. I really missed seeing birds around, perhaps I need to go out more. 🙂

  • Yes, Its always good to back away and look at the macro view, take it all in. It reminds of when i play Sudoku, rather than get bogged down in one box, look at the whole grid for clues. I love your comment about limited knowledge – it is good to know our limitations, and be open to learning 🙂
    Thanks for your very kind words, glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  • Ivan, that is class!!!
    I love the last pic – even a vulture can think he is awesome 🙂
    There’s hope for us all 🙂
    Thanks for reading, and commenting

  • Wonderful post and analogy. I thought I was a “graceful Robin,” but Ivan may have convinced me that I’m a turkey vulture too 🙂

  • I love the analogy Elaine. I can relate to all of them from differents times of my business life bar the first one.

  • Excellent post Elaine. What a nice way to describe different personality types in business – could visualise each one perfectly. I would like to think I’m a robin, but I know that I have elements of all the others as well!

  • Hi Alistair, welcome to Bloggertone. I think there is a lot of confusion out there as to “what is” the Cloud? It’s a relief to know that it’s meant to be understood in precise terms 🙂
    I think what’s important sre potentail benefits to business such as cost & acccess to resources which as I understand it will be greatly improved? Warm Regards, Niall

  • Hi Alistar,

    And there was me thinking the cloud symbol represented the internet….
    How would you define cloud computing? How can we retain this definition?


  • Alistair,

    Interesting column and welcome to Bloggertone.
    The various debates on cloud computing are partially driven by different perceptions of what cloud computing is. One definition that I came across in the past from Joe Drumgoole in CloudSplit covers technical and business aspects –



  • Hi Niall, thanks for the welcome. And thanks to whoever kindly produced the graphic to go with my blog. Terrific. And yes, I totally agree there are business benefits to what’s being touted as Cloud Computing. And these developments are great in providing new choices to IT consumers, especially SME’s. It’s just that what we think of as Cloud today will in a few years time, maybe even a few months, be largely defined by who right now has the biggest marketing influence…. Microsoft? Google?

  • Hi Christina

    I would define cloud computing as something like “sharing a computing resource among many users, dramatically lowering the cost of providing computing capability.” Oh, hang on, that’s the definition of mainframe timesharing from the 1960’s! (


  • I know nothing about cloud computing except it will be both revolutionary and dangerous to the untrained mind.
    What confuses me is the perception or misconception that everything will be stored “up there” when we are still dealing with physical servers, or am I sitting on a different nebulous thing altogether??

  • Hi Elaine. You’re absolutely right. It’s a misnomer that stuff is stored “up there”. It’s all stored “down there” in physical servers, hopefully tucked away in secure data centres.

  • Excellent point! By the way I checked out your own site, it’s great! very interesting 🙂

  • OOh just watched Die Hard 4 last night – sign of how vulnerable we are (and how thick we CAN be). If we gather information together to that extent, it puts new meaning on “eggs in one basket”.

    And we must always remember, the crims are always ahead of the possy – law of logic 🙂

    Thanks for clarifying the cloud / server thingy 🙂

  • Peter Doyle


    Interesting article regarding cloud computing on BBC website today:
    It may help to make things a little clearer.
    As article points out this is nothing new – it’s just a new name for a method of service delivery that has been around in various guises for a number of years now.
    Back in 2000 when I joined DMR (now Fujitsu) I was taken on board to help them establish their Application Service Provider (ASP) business which is essentially the same as cloud computing as ASP model was to build infrastruture and host application centrally in data centre and try to sell access to various external customers on a per-seat or per-transaction basis over the web. Didn’t really take of then and model has been honed and tweaked over years since but underlying concept is still the same.
    In terms of defining what Cloud computing is it is worth extending your Douglas Adams reference above – in reference to the Universe he stated that if anyone worked out what it was for or why it was here it would instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. The same probably applies to Cloud computing