Cloud Is Defined, Now Stop the Cloudwashing

James Staten

This blog post is a response to an article by Alex Williams on ReadWriteWeb. Thanks for the shout out, Alex, and for bringing more attention to the contentious issue of cloud computing definitions. While Forrester research reports are created exclusively for our clients, our definition is freely available:

A standardized IT capability (services, software, or infrastructure) delivered via Internet technologies in a pay-per-use, self-service way.

We first published this definition back in March 2008 in the report, “Is Cloud Computing Ready for the Enterprise,” and have held to that published definition ever since (in fact it has been leveraged in multiple Forrester reports, speeches at industry events, news articles, blog posts and tweets since that original publication). Our definition was also used by NIST and several other Federal government agencies as a resource used to create their definition.

One of the key values Forrester Research provides to its clients is helping them navigate the technology trends and delineate what is a new type of technology and what is simply last year’s technology in new clothing (what I call “cloud-washing”). Thus it was imperative for us to publish our definition early and we have since been striving to provide clear taxonomy and categorization of cloud services, as shown in our latest Forrester Tech Radar.

In this Tech Radar we lauded NIST for their definition, and contrary to your statement, do not believe we need the “circus” of more or better definitions at this stage. Rather we believe we need broader recognition of what is and what isn’t cloud computing to get past the marketing hype and make it easier for customers to identify and then consume these valuable new service offerings. That’s why we’ve stuck with our definition since 2008 and are glad to see NIST sticking to theirs.

By James Staten

Check out James' research

You should follow James on Twitter here



"...and delineate what is a new type of technology and what is simply last year’s technology in new clothing (what I call “cloud-washing”)."

Isn't 'cloud computing' just 'software as a service' under a new name? Shouldn't the term be 'SasS-washing'?


Not even. SaaS is just one segment of the overall cloud computing market. You certainly couldn't call PaaS or IaaS SaaS or even SaaS wannabes.
But there are certainly a lot of non-SaaS solutions out there trying to portray themselves as SaaS. The most common culprits are ASP and application outsourcing.
ASP, or Application Service Providers, have an expertise in hosting a certain application for multiple clients but their solution isn't SaaS. Where SaaS shares a single scaled-out instance of an application across multiple customers, ASPs typically set up a separate instance of the application for each customer. They gain some economies of scale from operating these instances in a consistent fashion and on common, commodity infrastructure but manage each instance separately. This can deliver greater security (it's not a multitenant application) but at the cost of redundancy.
Application outsourcing is handing the operational responsibilities for an app you run today over to a service provider who takes over this duty. Sure, they rent the app back to you but they operate it pretty much the same way you did and there is no economy of scale for them or you through this outsourcing.