Defining cloud computing: It's all about the layers

Cloud concepts can be pretty confusing. But when you tell a small business owner or early-stage startup it means not having to spend a lot of money, it gets simple fast.

Denise Deveau wrote about this recently in the Globe and Mail (and I got quoted a bunch, which was nice.) But defining what “cloud” really means is a contentious subject. At the upcoming Cloudcamp in San Francisco (running before Structure, and organized by the energetic Reuven Cohen) this is sure to be a subject of debate.

My overly simple soundbite for the Globe article was that cloud computing was “having computing resources available to you when you don’t own the machines.” But that might get me into trouble: There’s a taxonomy of on-demand services, from platform-as-a-service to hardware-as-a-service. And then there’s grid computing. And of course SaaS gets lumped in with this.

So I’m going to try a more detailed description:

Cloud computing means having a set of abstracted resources available to you, and not worrying about what’s below that abstraction.

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