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To date, no definition of the term cloud computing has been able to establish itself as generally valid. In publications or lectures, definitions are often used that are mostly similar, but that vary time and again. One definition that is mostly used in expert circles is the definition of the US American standardisation body NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), which is also used by ENISA (European Network and Information Security Agency):
“Cloud computing is a model that allows you to conveniently access a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage systems, applications, and services) over a network, anytime, anywhere, as needed, that can be made available quickly and with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
This definition reflects the vision of cloud computing, but it should not be overdogged. For example, the ubiquitous availability of private clouds may not even be sought. After the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), cloud computing has the following characteristics in addition to the elasticity and self-service mentioned above:
In order to have a uniform basis for all future work around Cloud Computing, the BSI has established the following definition for the term “Cloud Computing”:
Cloud computing refers to the dynamic provision, use and billing of IT services via a network, adapted to demand. These services are offered and used exclusively via defined technical interfaces and protocols. The range of services offered as part of cloud computing covers the entire spectrum of information technology and includes infrastructure (e.g. computing power, storage space), platforms and software. What distinguishes a public cloud from a private cloud?
NIST distinguishes four deployment models:
However, the above mentioned definitions do not cover all variants of cloud offerings, which leads to further definitions such as “Virtual Private Cloud”, etc..
Basically, three different categories of service models can be distinguished:
The term “as a service” is still used for a multitude of further offers, such as for example Security as a Service, BP as a Service (Business Process), Storage as a Service, so that frequently also from “XaaS” one talks, thus “something as a service”. Most of these offers can at least roughly be assigned to one of the above categories. The service models also differ in the influence of the customer on the security of the services offered. With IaaS, the customer has full control over the IT system from the operating system upwards, since everything is operated within his area of responsibility, with PaaS he only has control over his applications running on the platform, and with SaaS he hands over practically all control to the CSP.
Outsourcing involves outsourcing all or part of an institution’s work, production or business processes to external service providers. This is an established part of today’s organizational strategies. Classic IT outsourcing is usually designed in such a way that the entire leased infrastructure is used exclusively by one customer (single-tenant architecture), even if outsourcing providers normally have several customers. In addition, outsourcing contracts are usually concluded for longer terms.
The use of cloud services is in many ways similar to classic outsourcing, but there are also some differences that need to be taken into account:
The customer can easily administer the services used and his resources via web interfaces or suitable interfaces, whereby little interaction with the provider is required.
Source: Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (Federal Office for Information Security in Germany).