Analyst firm Gartner has revised the way it defines cloud computing to help prevent organisations from being hoodwinked by providers and to reflect emerging usage of the technology.
In an announcement on Tuesday, Gartner published a set of five cloud attributes, which it hopes will help stop providers from rebranding existing products as cloud services, and allow organisations to make more informed decisions.
In the revised attributes, Gartner has replaced the words 'massively scalable', which had appeared in its original 2008 definitions, with 'scalable and elastic'.
Daryl Plummer, a managing vice president and chief Gartner fellow, said 'massively scalable' assumed that everything was going to need to be scaled to a very large size. "Whereas what we really wanted to emphasise is that it needs to be scalable but in both directions, up and down," he told ZDNet UK.
Cloud computing services are defined by Gartner as being service-based, scalable and elastic, shared, metered by use, and delivered using internet technologies.
The analyst firm explores the five features of the technology in greater depth in a recent report Five refining attributes of public and private cloud computing.
Plummer said the Gartner definitions were important because there is widespread demand among organisations for greater clarity. "We are trying to clarify the definitions because nobody else is. We've even got companies like IBM saying there is no definition, and we don't believe that's true," he said.
"There is massive confusion out there and that is resulting in clients following essentially what the vendors are telling them to do. And the vendors are telling them to do what the vendors want them to do, not what's best for the model."
He said the definitions and refined attributes allow customers to make a better informed decision. "How do we keep all the managed hosting providers from just relabelling all their services as cloud computing services? The way we do that is by understanding the difference between managed hosting and cloud computing. To do that you need to have the definitions and attributes established," Plummer added.
He said the cloud will continue to evolve, and there is also the possibility of having to revise the definitions again. He said the biggest danger was that people thought of cloud computing as simply infrastructure as a service.
"We are moving down that path now with most enterprises thinking we are just going to replace our on-premises technology with cloud technology. And that model has a natural barrier to it: 'the cloud refraction barrier'. If you want to go through the barrier there is something you have to do that most enterprises aren't doing right now and that is give up control," Plummer said.
"If you try to keep control, there will just be too many things that you just can't keep up with in the cloud model. You have three choices: you either stop doing cloud computing; or you do it in a very small way where it doesn't matter much; or you actually give up control and trust the service providers and demand that they be trustworthy."