Cloud Computing Glossary

Please use this resource to better understand the cloud terms and acronyms and help you make more informed decisions.


Active Directory

A directory service developed by Microsoft for Windows domain networks. It's a part of most Windows server operating systems and processes.


Microsoft's cloud computing platform.

Billing and service usage metering

You get billed for resources as you use them. This pay-as-you-go model means usage is metered and you pay only for what you consume.

Business Process as a Service (BPaaS)

A complete business process is provided as a service - such as billing, HR, payroll, advertising, etc.


A metaphor for a global network, first used in reference to the telephone network and now commonly used to represent the Internet.

Cloud Application

A software application that is never installed on a local machine - it's always accessed over the Internet. The “top” layer of the Cloud Pyramid where “applications” are run and interacted with via a web-browser. Cloud Applications are tightly controlled, leaving little room for modification. Examples include: Gmail or

Cloud Arcs

Short for cloud architectures. Designs for software applications that can be accessed and used over the Internet.

Cloud Bridge

Running an application in such a way that its components are integrated within multiple cloud environments (which could be any combination of internal/private and external/public clouds).

Cloud Broker

An entity that creates and maintains relationships with multiple cloud service providers. It acts as a liaison between cloud services customers and cloud service providers, selecting the best provider for each customer and monitoring the services.

Cloud Computing

A computing capability that provides an abstraction between the computing resource and its underlying technical architecture (e.g., servers, storage, networks), enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” This definition states that clouds have five essential characteristics: on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service. Narrowly speaking, cloud computing is client-server computing that abstract the details of the server away; one requests a service (resource), not a specific server (machine). Cloud computing enables Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Cloud computing means that infrastructure, applications, and business processes can be delivered to you as a service, over the Internet (or your own network).

Cloud Computing Maturity Model (CCMM)

Defines five stages of evolution for an enterprise data center to migrate to cloud computing. The five stages are: consolidation, virtualization, automation, utility and cloud

Cloud Enabler

A general term that refers to organizations (typically vendors) who are not cloud providers per se, but make available technology, such as cloudware, that enables cloud computing. Vendor that provides technology or service that enables a client or other vendor to take advantage of cloud computing.

Cloud Hosting

A type of internet hosting where the client leases virtualized, dynamically scalable infrastructure on an as-needed basis. Users frequently have the choice of operating system and other infrastructure components. Typically cloud hosting is self-service, billed hourly or monthly, and controlled via a web interface or API.

Cloud Infrastructure

The “bottom” layer or foundation of the Cloud Pyramid is the delivery of computer infrastructure through paravirtualization. This includes servers, networks and other hardware appliances delivered as either Infrastructure Web Services or “cloud centers”, full control of the infrastructure is provided at this level.

Cloud Manageability

You need a consistent view across both on-premises and cloud-based environments. This includes managing the assets provisioning as well as the quality of service (QOS) you're receiving from your service provider.

Cloud OS

Also known as platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Think Google Chrome.

Cloud Operating System

A computer operating system that is specially designed to run in a provider's datacenter and be delivered to the user over the Internet or another network. Windows Azure is an example of a cloud operating system or “cloud layer” that runs on Windows Server 2008.

Cloud Platform System (CPS)

Is an Azure-consistent cloud in a box, enabling organizations and service providers to deliver cloud capacity to their users. CPS is a fully integrated and pre-configured system of Microsoft software and Dell hardware, with a Microsoft-led support experience.

Cloud Portability

The ability to move applications (and often their associated data) across cloud computing environments from different cloud providers, as well as across private or internal cloud and public or external clouds.

Cloud Providers

Computing service providers whose product/platform is based on virtualization of computing resources and a utility-based payment model.

Cloud Pyramid

A visual representation of Cloud Computing layers where differing segments are broken out by functionality. Simplified version includes: Infrastructure, Platform and Application layers.

Cloud Security

The same security principles that apply to on-site computing apply to cloud computing security.

Cloud Servers

Virtualized servers running Windows or Linux operating systems that are instantiated via a web interface or API. Cloud Servers behave in the same manner as physical ones and can be controlled at an administrator or root level, depending on the server type and Cloud Hosting provider.

Cloud Service Architecture (CSA)

A term coined by Jeff Barr, chief evangelist at Amazon Web Services. The term describes an architecture in which applications and application components act as services on the cloud, which serve other applications within the same cloud environment.

Cloud Sourcing

Outsourcing storage or taking advantage of some other type of cloud service.

Cloud Standards

A standard is an agreed-upon approach for doing something. Cloud standards ensure interoperability, so you can take tools, applications, virtual images, and more, and use them in another cloud environment without having to do any rework. Portability lets you take one application or instance running on one vendor's implementation and deploy it on another vendor's implementation.

Cloud Storage

A service that allows customers to save data by transferring it over the Internet or another network to an offsite storage system maintained by a third party.

Cloud Storm

Connecting multiple cloud computing environments, aka cloud network.

Cloud as a service (CaaS)

A cloud computing service that has been opened up into a platform that others can build upon.

Cloud center

A datacenter in the “cloud” utilizing standards-based virtualized components as a datacenter-like infrastructure; example: a large company, such as Amazon, that rents its infrastructure.

Cloud client

Computing device for cloud computing. Updated version of thin client.

Cloud envy

Used to describe a vendor who jumps on the cloud computing bandwagon by rebranding existing services.

Cloud governance and compliance

Governance defines who's responsible for what and the policies and procedures that your people or groups need to follow. Cloud governance requires governing your own infrastructure as well as infrastructure that you don't totally control. Cloud governance has two key components: understanding compliance and risk and business performance goals.

Cloud provider

A company that provides cloud-based platform, infrastructure, application, or storage services to other organizations and/or individuals, usually for a fee.

Cloud storming

The act of connecting multiple cloud computing environments.

Cloud washing

Slapping the word “cloud” on products and services.

Cloud-Oriented Architecture (COA)

A term coined by Jeff Barr at Amazon Web Services to describe an architecture where applications act as services in the cloud and serve other applications in the cloud environment. An architecture for IT infrastructure and software applications that is optimized for use in cloud computing environments. The term is not yet in wide use, and as is the case for the term “cloud computing” itself, there is no common or generally accepted definition or specific description of a cloud-oriented architecture.


What happens when your cloud has an outage or security breach and your data is unavailable? The term cloudburst is being use in two meanings, negative and positive.

Cloudburst (negative)

The failure of a cloud computing environment due to the inability to handle a spike in demand.

Cloudburst (positive)

The dynamic deployment of a software application that runs on internal organizational compute resources to a public cloud to address a spike in demand.


A general term referring to a variety of software, typically at the infrastructure level, that enables building, deploying, running or managing applications in a cloud computing environment.


A group of linked computers that work together as if they were a single computer, for high availability and/or load balancing.

Consumption-based pricing model

A pricing model whereby the service provider charges its customers based on the amount of the service the customer consumes, rather than a time-based fee. For example, a cloud storage provider might charge per gigabyte of information stored. See also Subscription-based pricing model.

Content delivery network (CDN)

A system consisting of multiple computers that contain copies of data, which are located in different places on the network so clients can access the copy closest to them.

Customer self-service

A feature that allows customers to provision, manage, and terminate services themselves, without involving the service provider, via a Web interface or programmatic calls to service APIs.

Data as a Service (DaaS)

In computing the concept that product (in this case data) is provided on-demand, regardless of location. Also see SaaS

Data in the cloud

Managing data in the cloud requires data security and privacy, including controls for moving data from point A to point B. It also includes managing data storage and the resources for large-scale data processing.

Disruptive technology

A term used in the business world to describe innovations that improve products or services in unexpected ways. Cloud computing is often referred to as a disruptive technology because it has the potential to completely revolutionize the way IT services are deployed, procured, and maintained.

Elastic computing

The ability to dynamically provision and de-provision processing, memory, and storage resources to meet demands of peak usage without worrying about capacity planning and engineering for peak usage.


The cloud is elastic, meaning that resource allocation can get bigger or smaller depending on demand. Elasticity enables scalability, which means that the cloud can scale upward for peak demand and downward for lighter demand. See scalability


Coding to protect your information assets and data.

External cloud

Public or private cloud services that are provided by a third party outside the organization. A cloud computing environment that is external to the boundaries of the organization.

Funnel cloud

Discussion about cloud computing that goes round and round but never turns into action (never “touches the ground”)


Hardware as a service; see IaaS.

Hosted application

An Internet-based or Web-based application software program that runs on a remote server and can be accessed via an Internet-connected PC. See also SaaS.

Hybrid cloud

A networking environment that includes multiple integrated internal and/or external providers. Hybrid clouds combine aspects of both public and private clouds.

Identity management

Managing personal identity information so that access to computer resources, applications, data, and services is controlled properly.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Cloud infrastructure services or “Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)” delivers computer infrastructure, typically a platform virtualization environment, as a service. Rather than purchasing servers, software, data center space or network equipment, clients instead buy those resources as a fully outsourced service. This is typically billed on a utility basis and amount of resources consumed (and therefore the cost) will typically reflect the level of usage.

Internal cloud

A type of private cloud whose services are provided by an IT department to those in its own organization.


A Web-based application that combines data and/or functionality from multiple sources.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft cloud services that provide the platform as a service (see PaaS), allowing developers to create cloud applications and services.

Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS)

Online versions of Microsoft's messaging and collaboration solutions, which includes SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online


Software that sits between applications and operating systems, consisting of a set of services that enable interoperability in support of distributed architectures by passing data between applications. For example, the data in one database can be accessed through another database.

On-demand service

A model by which a customer can purchase cloud services as needed; for instance, if customers need to utilize additional servers for the duration of a project, they can do so and then drop back to the previous level after the project is completed.

Pay as you go

A cost model for cloud services that encompasses both subscription-based and consumption-based models, in contrast to traditional IT cost model that requires up-front capital expenditures for hardware and software.

Personal cloud

Synonymous with something called MiFi (pronounced ME-fi), a personal wireless router. It takes a mobile wireless data signal and translates it to Wi-Fi.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Cloud platform services, whereby the computing platform (operating system and associated services) is delivered as a service over the Internet by the provider. The PaaS layer offers black-box services with which developers can build applications on top of the compute infrastructure. This might include developer tools that are offered as a service to build services, or data access and database services, or billing services.

Private clouds

Private cloud virtualized cloud data centers inside your company's firewall. It may also be a private space dedicated to your company within a cloud provider's data center. An internal cloud behind the organization's firewall. The company's IT department provides software's and hardware as a service to its customers - the people who work for the company. Vendors love the words “private cloud.”

Public cloud

Services offered over the public Internet and available to anyone who wants to purchase the service.

Roaming workloads

The backend product of cloud centers.


Means that an application can scale when adding users and when application requirements change.

Self-service provisioning

Cloud customers can provision cloud services without going through a lengthy process. You request an amount of computing, storage, software, process, or more from the service provider. After you use these resources, they can be automatically de-provisioned.

Service level agreement SLA

A contractual agreement by which a service provider defines the level of service, responsibilities, priorities, and guarantees regarding availability, performance, and other aspects of the service.

Service migration

The act of moving from one cloud service or vendor to another.

Service provider

The company or organization that provides a public or private cloud service.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Cloud application services, whereby applications are delivered over the Internet by the provider, so that the applications don't have to be purchased, installed, and run on the customer's computers. In the SaaS layer, the service provider hosts the software so you don't need to install it, manage it, or buy hardware for it. All you have to do is connect and use it, examples include customer relationship management as a service.

Standardized interfaces

Cloud services should have standardized APIs, which provide instructions on how two application or data sources can communicate with each other. A standardized interface lets the customer more easily link cloud services together.

Subscription-based pricing model

A pricing model that lets customers pay a fee to use the service for a particular time period, often used for SaaS services. See also Consumption-based pricing model.

Utility computing

Online computing or storage sold as a metered commercial service in a way similar to a public utility

Vendor lock-in

Dependency on the particular cloud vendor and difficulty moving from one cloud vendor to another due to lack of standardized protocols, APIs, data structures (schema), and service models.

Vertical cloud

A cloud computing environment that is optimized for use in a particular industry, such as health care or financial services.

Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)

A term coined by Reuven Cohen, CEO and founder of Enomaly. The term describes a concept that is similar to, and derived from, the familiar concept of a Virtual Private Network (VPN), but applied to cloud computing. It is the notion of turning a public cloud into a virtual private cloud, particularly in terms of security and the ability to create a VPC across components that are both within the cloud and external to it. e.g., the Amazon VPC that allows Amazon EC2 to connect to legacy infrastructure on an IPsec VPN.

Virtual private data center

Resources grouped according to specific business objectives.

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