Let’s continue our “Cloud Definition” Journey to better term of cloud-computing, making a criss-cross between different definitions of cloud. It’s easy to see the term “cloud computing” is being loosely applied and defined differently in the market by users and vendors. The better understandings of cloud perspectives and properly setting of clear expectations are key factors in cloud adoption and migration results. This time I’m posting the Gartner definitions and specific perspectives about cloud.

cloud definitionsAccording Gartner high experience in the cloud research, the term “cloud computing” is being loosely applied and defined differently, and it’s creating a lot of confusion in the market. In September 2008, Gartner defines cloud computing “as a style of computing in which massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service” using Internet technologies to multiple external customers”. Few months later, Gartner defines cloud computing “as a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to external customers using Internet technologies”. Where is the difference? Gartner has removed “massively scalable” and replaced it with “scalable and elastic” as an indicator that the important characteristic of scale is the ability to scale up and down, not just to massive size.

However, there have been different perceptions about what is included in cloud computing. “The term cloud computing has come to mean two very different things: a broader use that focuses on ‘cloud,’ and a more-focused use on system infrastructure and virtualization,” said David Mitchell Smith, VP and Gartner Fellow. “Mixing the discussion of ‘cloud-enabling technologies’ with ‘cloud computing services’ creates confusion.”

One of the major views of cloud computing in the market is assuming the cloud image viewed from the Internet/Web/software as a service (SaaS) perspective. The focus is more on the cloud than on the computing with the bold accent on the access to services from anywhere. This cloud is a global-class phenomenon and a high-level concept that can refer to a range of services extending from system infrastructure (for example, compute services and storage services) through applications (for example, CRM) and business processes (for example, payroll services). Gartner’s definition is along these lines, with the off-premises nature of cloud services being the point of reference, and applicability to intra-enterprise use as a secondary effect.

The second popular interpretation is built on technologies basement, where virtualization and automation are the main leitmotif, and all spot lights are focused on the computing. This perspective is an extension of traditional data center approaches and can be applied to entirely internal enterprise systems with no use of external off-premises capabilities provided by a third party.

“Although these perspectives are different, there is a connection between them. Any provider of cloud computing services must have an environment that includes an infrastructure to support their delivery. Virtualization often is used to implement this underlying infrastructure to support delivery of the cloud computing services,” said David Mitchell Smith. “Cloud system infrastructure services are a subset of cloud computing, but not the entire picture.”

Gartner recommends that users clearly separate the consideration of cloud computing and cloud computing services from the use of cloud computing-related concepts and technologies for the creation of internal systems. Both perspectives (services and technologies) are valuable and should be pursued.

5 Cloud Attributes according Gartner

Gartner identified the five attributes of cloud computing. By using these attributes, it is possible to see how strongly a cloud solution (or service) adheres to the cloud computing model.

“When approaching cloud computing, providers of cloud services and potential consumers of cloud services must examine the attributes of cloud computing to determine whether their services will deliver the expected outcomes,” said Daryl Plummer, managing VP and Chief Gartner Fellow. “If a service is not scalable and elastic, then it may not be shareable enough. If it is not metered by use, then it may not allow for flexible pricing. Support for more of the attributes opens the door to a great value proposition to the consumer, and greater flexibility and potential cost reduction for the provider.

“We recognize that services may adhere to some attributes more effectively than others,” also said David Mitchell Smith. “The degree to which the service exhibits all these characteristics indicates how much it adheres to the cloud computing model. One must examine a combination of these attributes to evaluate cloud services. Focusing on one attribute in isolation is not recommended.”

The five attributes of cloud computing according Gartner are:

1.    Service-Based: Consumer concerns are abstracted from provider concerns through service interfaces that are well-defined. The interfaces hide the implementation details and enable a completely automated response by the provider of the service to the consumer of the service. The service could be considered “ready to use” or “off the shelf” because the service is designed to serve the specific needs of a set of consumers, and the technologies are tailored to that need rather than the service being tailored to how the technology works.

2.    Scalable and Elastic: The service can scale capacity up or down as the consumer demands at the speed of full automation. Elasticity is a trait of shared pools of resources. Scalability is a feature of the underlying infrastructure and software platforms. Elasticity is associated with not only scale but also an economic model that enables scaling in both directions in an automated fashion. This means that services scale on demand to add or remove resources as needed.

3.    Shared: Services share a pool of resources to build economies of scale. IT resources are used with maximum efficiency. The underlying infrastructure, software or platforms are shared among the consumers of the service (usually unknown to the consumers). This enables unused resources to serve multiple needs for multiple consumers, all working at the same time.

4.    Metered by Use: Services are tracked with usage metrics to enable multiple payment models. The service provider has a usage accounting model for measuring the use of the services, which could then be used to create different pricing plans and models. These may include pay-as-you go plans, subscriptions, fixed plans and even free plans. The implied payment plans will be based on usage, not on the cost of the equipment. These plans are based on the amount of the service used by the consumers, which may be in terms of hours, data transfers or other use-based attributes delivered.

5.    Uses Internet Technologies: The service is delivered using Internet identifiers, formats and protocols, such as URLs, HTTP, IP and representational state transfer Web-oriented architecture. Many examples of Web technology exist as the foundation for Internet-based services. Google’s Gmail,’s book buying, eBay’s auctions and Lolcats’ picture sharing all exhibit the use of Internet and Web technologies and protocols.

Sources:, 2008, 2009

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Related Posts:

CLOUD DEFINITIONS: LET’S START WITH NIST (1) – cloud☁mania, 14 September 2013

CIO CLOUD DEFINITIONS (2) – cloud☁mania, 17 September 2013

IDC CLOUD DEFINITIONS (3) – cloud☁mania, 18 September 2013

GARTNER VP DARYL PLUMMER ABOUT CLOUD – cloud☁mania, 14 October 2013


About Radu Crahmaliuc
Independent IT&C analyst, digital transformation & Cloud computing evangelist, start-ups developer, freelancer, storyteller, events moderator & keynote speaker


  1. Simply wanna tell that this is very useful , Thanks for taking your time to write this. “I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue, than why I have one.” by Cato the Elder.

  2. Pingback: CLOUD COMPUTING | cloud☁mania

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