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Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing

By John | January 28, 2009

There, I said it out loud.  Seems like many of the cloud experts are embroiled in a Arthurian quest to define the perfect taxonomy for cloud computing.  Personally, I’m happy with the original SPI model (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS).  However, as I have stated many times, it is not a perfect definition.  Recently, David Linthicum wrote an interesting article called “Defining the Cloud Computing Framework”, where he describes a taxonomy based on ten “as a services” classifications.   His taxonomy includes the following areas:

My initial thoughts regarding the differences between the SPI model and Linthicum’s model is that the SPI model works well for the Web 2.0 crowd and Linthicum’s model is better suited for the enterprise folk.   Then maybe the simple answer to the taxonomy question is that you sell the red bricks to the WEB 2.0 guys and the blue bricks to the enterprise.  However, we all know it’s just not going to be that simple.  Enter Randy Bias, a cloud thought leader from GoGrid, who also has an interesting take on the “how to define a cloud” discussion.  He primarily focuses on the Infrastructure (IaaS) layer in one of his recent blog articles and  he describes the Infrastructure as a five layer stack including:

Now you see why some very smart people are having a very hard time doing something that as my ten year old son would say – “Dad, that sounds like it should be easy.”   Enter stage left, the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB).  No, not Rick Wolski this time, the famed creator of Eucalyptus.  No, this time I am talking about Lamia Youseff.  During my Cloud Cafe podcast with Rich Wolski, Rich suggested that I should take a look at some of the interesting stuff Lamia Youseff is doing at UCSB.  Though it took me a little while, I finally got around to taking his advise and what I found might be the the first glimpse of how to find the “Holy Grail” taxonomy.  Youseff, along with Maria Butrico and Dilma Da Silva of the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, have created a paper titled “Toward a Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing.”  The shorter version can be found in a slide presentation with the same name.  In her presentation she describes a five layer classification as follows:

I personally have not found a perfect way to describe the “cloud” to someone (and believe me, I have tried).  However, in my opinion, Youseff might be off to the best start, and add a little bit of Randy Bias, David Linthicum and Reuven Cohen, and we might get closer to a round table where we can start addressing the other really big issues.

Topics: cloud computing | 16 Comments »

16 Responses to “Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing”

  1. Ian Says:
    January 28th, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Interesting post. I think this debate will continue for a while. There are a new breed of companies emerging which solve specific business problems with cloud computing solutions, whether that is providing virtual lab automation, virtual desktops, or cloud management services that don’t fit well into the UCSB framework. I’d suggest a column spanning the diagram to the left labeled cloud solutions that combine different elements of the stack. More details here:

  2. Cloudcast - Cloud Computing and Virtual Lab Management » Blog Archive » Cloud Ontology Says:
    January 28th, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    [...] Willis’s blog post and Reuven Cohen comments on this bring up the ongoing debate on cloud ontology. I posted some [...]

  3. Christofer Hoff Says:
    January 28th, 2009 at 5:38 pm


    I laid down a trackback to this post earlier, but it didn’t seem to make it ;(

    I’ve been working on a graphical cloud taxonomy/ontology all day today with some really awesome comments/feedback from the brain trust. THought you might be interested as it’s really a mashup of much of what you have here:


    (P.S. TYpePad has FUBAR’d the comments that were left — about 16 of them — so hopefully it will be fixed shortly.)

  4. What Is Software as a Service | NomaDesk Virtual Private Servers Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 12:00 am

    [...] Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing [...]

  5. James Urquhart Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 12:29 am


    For the record, thanks for introducing the UCSB-IBM ontology to the rest of us, and for inspiring Chris Hoff to get involved. We are grateful yet again for the work you put in to covering cloud computing.


  6. William Vambenepe’s blog » Blog Archive » Cloud ontology: to boldly go where ITIL, Grid and SOA have gone before Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 2:11 am

    [...] John points out, there are plenty of existing proposals. The SPI taxonomy (SaaS/PaaS/IaaS), the SADIST-PIMP [...]

  7. And the 2009 Cloudie Award Goes To… | IT Management and Cloud Blog Says:
    January 29th, 2009 at 8:36 am

    [...] story short, I wrote this post yesterday morning and some serious “Cloud” thought leaders took the ball and started [...]

  8. IT Management and Cloud Blog January Roundup | IT Management and Cloud Blog Says:
    February 4th, 2009 at 5:25 am

    [...] Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing [...]

  9. Cloudology* › Cloud Burst Says:
    February 11th, 2009 at 2:05 am

    [...] Hoff, inspired by SADIST-PIMP and the Youseff/Butrico/Da Silva paper as reported by John Willis, bravely hosted something of a community effort at a “cloud taxonomy and ontology”, [...]

  10. Shared Filesystems in the Cloud — Dave Graham's Weblog Says:
    February 11th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    [...] Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing ( [...]

  11. Cloud Talk Debrief: Impromptu Session — Dave Graham's Weblog Says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    [...] Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing ( [...]

  12. Rational Survivability » Cloud Computing Taxonomy & Ontology :: Please Review Says:
    June 6th, 2009 at 11:15 am

    [...] models floating about. I was inspired by John Willis’ blog post this morning titled “Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing” in which he scraped together many ideas on the subject. I’m building a number of [...]

  13. @ Interop’s Enterprise Cloud Summit: Peter Laird, Tendril Networks, Cloud Offering Taxonomy : elemental cloud computing Says:
    October 27th, 2009 at 9:06 am

    [...] Academic: See Toward a Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing (pdf).  Diagram Peter showed is from this John M. Willis blog post. [...]

  14. cloud computing testing tools Says:
    November 8th, 2009 at 9:33 am

    i am impressed by the David Linthicum’s aricle about cloud computing.

  15. cecile Says:
    January 10th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Nice point of view of cloud computing. Thanks!

  16. A better way to understand cloud computing | 云生活 Says:
    April 28th, 2010 at 11:20 am

    [...] first was brought to my attention by John Willis via Reuven Cohen. It comes to us from Lamia Youseff of the University of California at Santa [...]