How US Government Defines Cloud Computing

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is responsible for developing standards and guidelines, including minimum requirements, for providing adequate information security for all Federal agency operations and assets. These guidelines may be used by non-governmental organizations on a voluntary basis. The guidelines are not subject to copyright, although NSIT expects attribution. NIST is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland.


NIST has drafted a whitepaper to provide the definition of cloud computing to enhance and inform the public debate on cloud computing. Since cloud computing is an evolving paradigm, an over-arching debate would refine its definition, use cases, underlying technologies, issues, risks, and benefits. Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Essential Characteristics

  • On-demand self-service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity
  • Measured Service

The model was initially adopted by the government and industry in response to the economic slowdown a few years back. However, it is now seen as an obvious technology progression. It provides IT agility but debates hover around security, interoperability, and portability. NIST aims to shorten the adoption cycle, which will enable near-term cost savings and increased ability to quickly create and deploy enterprise applications. The cloud computing paradigm involves three key enabling technologies:

  • Fast wide-area networks
  • Powerful, inexpensive server computers
  • High-performance virtualization for commodity hardware

Service Models

  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

Deployment Models

  • Private cloud
  • Community cloud
  • Public cloud
  • Hybrid cloud

Published by

Abhishek Baxi

Abhishek Baxi is an independent technology columnist for several international publications and a digital consultant. He speaks incessantly on Twitter (@baxiabhishek) and dons the role of Editor-in-Chief here at Techie Buzz.