On Definitions – Keeping it Simple with OSSM


In my travels running CloudCamps all over the place, I’m always surprised how often the “how do you define Cloud” question comes up. Spending so much time in the rarefied atmosphere of the twitterverse, it’s easy to just assume that everyone else “gets it” and that we can leave behind such base level definitional discussions as this.

The truth is somewhat different – the vast majority of people out there are still coming to terms with using Internet banking or Facebook. For them Cloud is an unheard of concept and unexplained territory.

This fact was driven home to me a couple of months ago when, at a function I bumped into a Cabinet Minister from here in New Zealand. Now this is a powerful guy who one would have expected would have his fingers well and truly on the pulse of innovation. When I was introduced to him as a well respected Cloud Computing commentator, said Minister asked me if that had something to do with Meteorology! Trying hard to not choke on my croissant, I gave him a quick definition of Cloud… and went home pondering the need for simplification in this area.

You see the definition most people use currently is that provided by NIST, the National Institute of Science and technology. The NIST definition runs several hundred words and while undeniably comprehensive, no one could ever accuse it of being brief or easily read. It’s for this reason that I’ve recently started using a definition devised by none other than Dave Nielsen, one of the founders of CloudCamp and a really nice guy who does a huge amount for the Cloud community. Dave has the following pithy definition that (in my mind anyway) does much to remove the mystery surrounding Cloud and articulates it in ways that anyone can understand.

Under Dave’s definition, Cloud is OSSM, meaning that Cloud Computing is a computing resource that is;

  • On-demand: the server is already setup and ready to be deployed
  • Self-service: customer chooses what they want, when they want it
  • Scalable: customer can choose how much they want and ramp up if necessary
  • Measurable: there’s metering/reporting so you know you are getting what you pay for

In testing the acronym with a bunch of people – both from a technology and a non-technology background, the response has been the same across the board. People really connect with the definition and, most importantly, see it as something understandable and non-threatening. That’s a good things for all of us, after all the Cloud truly is awesome, OSSM helps people understand that.

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  1. […] posted @ The Rackspace Blog  Cross posted from the Rackspace […]


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