The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing

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NIST is responsible for developing standards and guidelines, including minimum requirements, for providing adequate information security for all agency operations and assets.

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Essential Characteristics:

1. On-demand self-service

A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.

2. Broad network access.

Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations)

3. Resource pooling

The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.

4. Rapid elasticity

Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.

5. Measured service

Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

Service Models:

1. Software as a Service (SaaS)

The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through either a thin client interface, such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email), or a program interface. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user specific application configuration settings.

SaaS providers host an application and make it available to users through the internet, usually a browser-based interface. As the most familiar category of cloud computing, users most commonly interact with SaaS applications such as Gmail, Dropbox, Salesforce, or Netflix.

Also Read about What is Cloud Computing

2. Platform as a Service (PaaS)

The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages, libraries, services, and tools supported by the provider.3 The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.

PaaS solutions appeal to developers who want to spend more time coding, testing, and deploying their applications instead of dealing with hardware-oriented tasks such as managing security patches and operating system updates.

3. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

The capability provided to the consumer is to provision

Processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components.

IaaS providers deploy and manage pre-configured and virtualized hardware and enable users to spin up virtual machines or computing power without the labor-intensive server management or hardware investments.

Amazon Web Services, for example, offers IaaS through the Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. Most IaaS packages cover the storage, networking, servers, and virtualization components, while IaaS customers are usually responsible for installing and maintaining the operating system, databases, security components, and applications.