Friday, December 3, 2010

5 Essential Attributes of a Cloud Service

What do Gartner’s technology Hype Cycle Report of 2009 and 2010 have in common?

Did you answer that both reports include that cloud computing is at the peak of expectations?

Correct.  As in the 2009 Hype Cycle Report, cloud computing is still at the peak of inflated expectations for two consecutive years. The buzz around cloud services has not diminished, and with every global IT major launching some sort of cloud service, the hype continues to grow. There are many cloud success stories making the rounds. But the vast opportunities offered by the cloud, especially in the SMBs/SMEs segment, have also led to chaos. Within this confusion, many IT vendors have taken undue advantage of the situation, which has in turn resulted in what the experts call:

  • Cloud-Washing [It seems the it was 1st used by James Staten of Forrester Research]
  • SaaS-querade [I 1st read this in an article by Brian, CEO of TechVentive at ZDNet blog]
  • Pseudo SaaS
  • Quasi Cloud
  • Fake SaaS

All the above terms have the same meaning when it comes to cloud computing, and the modus-operandi is simple:

Take an on-premise hosted service or application and rebrand it as a cloud service.  This almost effortless scheme allows pseudo cloud vendors to ride the hype of cloud computing without offering, or maintaining, a true cloud service.

Even I receive numerous e-mail requests from many of these so-called cloud service vendors to include their services in Techno-Pulse Cloud Service Providers Directory.

So, amidst all the chaos and opportunity galore:

  • How do you identify a true cloud service or a true SaaS?
  • What are the must-have attributes/characteristics of a cloud service?
  • Are there any essential or fundamental elements of a cloud service?

To some extent, the debate is still going on as what should be termed a true cloud service. Here, I provide my input based on papers published by Gartner (the world’s leading IT research and advisory company) and by*NIST (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce). These two organizations  have explicitly defined the following 5 essential attributes/characteristics of a Cloud Service:


1. On-Demand Self-Service: Any cloud service is ready to use and serve some specific need of consumers. Computing capabilities can be provisioned by the end user (consumer) without any help from the support team of the service provider. The self service process must be simple and friendly. Most of the changes should be achieved by simple configuration changes. Here, configuration is the key, as opposed to code customization.

2. Scalable and Elastic: Any cloud service must size up or size down (i.e. scale capacity up or down) based on application’s demand and the user’s base. In simple terms, Scalability is the ability to automatically grow or shrink whereas Elasticity is how instantly an application can add or remove resources. An application is scalable by virtue of its architecture whereas Elasticity is implicitly achieved by deploying on a cloud infrastructure.

3. Resource Pooling: This is achieved by Multi-Tenant application architecture. What does this mean?

*Yefim Natis (vice president and a distinguished analyst in Gartner Research) says:

Multi-tenancy refers to the ability of software to be offered to multiple user entities (tenants) in a way so that each tenant operates as logically isolated, while, in fact, using physically shared resources. A tenant can be an organization co-using an application with other tenants. It can also be an application co-using underlying resources with other applications.

Whether Multi-Tenancy should be a mandatory characteristic of a cloud service is a debated topic by certain cloud experts. But I don’t think there’s any point in debating it, because  if your service is not providing multi-tenancy it will be at a disadvantage in long run. The maintenance and up-gradation cost will likely become too high to bear.

Read some interesting inputs from Cloud Experts - Amazon EC2 Dedicated Instances and Cloud Definition

Note: Resources means storage, processing, memory, network bandwidth and virtual machines.

4. Metered by Use: Cloud services are measured in a way similar to electricity or mobile phone usage. Also, apart from measuring and monitoring, the resource usage can be controlled as well. The tariff plans are solely based on the amount of the service used by the consumers, which may be measured in terms of hours, data transfers or other use-based attributes delivered.

5. Uses Internet Technologies: A cloud service must be accessible through the internet on thin or thick client platforms (laptops, smart-phones, tabs or other hand held devices). Also, to commence using a cloud service the consumer should not require any

  • Installation
  • Extra hardware
  • Software License specific to the service.

Beware of Pseudo Cloud Services and Providers! Take informed Cloud decisions. Ask your service provider about the above 5 cloud characteristics before investing in any service…


Related Articles


  1. Platform-oriented cloud platforms are distinguished by the higher level of abstraction they provide. Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid.

  2. Hey, nice and a very good piece of share. I like the way this has been crafted. Keep up the great work.