Huh? A guide to cloud-speak

By Laura Haight

It’s a language all its own, geek-speak wrapped up in acronyms and esoterica. Welcome to the cloud, where mostly you’ll never understand what they’re talking about. But there are some terms you really should get familiar with.

aaS: Not what you think. It’s “as a service” and you can put just about anything in front of it. Infrastructure (IaaS), Disaster Recovery (DRaaS), Software (SaaS), Platforms (PaaS) or data centers (DCaaS).

9s: You might see references to “4 9s” or “5 9s” or more. This refers to uptime and availability. What difference does a digit make? Quite a bit. A company promising 99.9 percent is estimating that your services will be down for 8 hours and 45 minutes a year. Sounds pretty good. But with 4 9s uptime, you get services all but 52 minutes a year. A company promising 6 9s, is expecting downtime to be 31.6 seconds a year. There’s a calculator for this at:

Hybrid, public or private cloud: The cloud is just another term for the internet. The public cloud refers to services available over the internet for purchase. Think Dropbox, Google Apps, and pretty much everything you use. The private cloud are services you host internally which, even though they may be publicly available, your company’s data and employee access is private and protected. A hybrid is combination of a public cloud provider (like Amazon) with a private cloud platform. The infrastructure operates independently of each other, but integrate using software and processes to make applications accessible.

VM: Virtual Machine. Using virtualization technology, Infrastructure as a Service providers can create server emulations. They are software-defined computers with the flexibility to scale up or down as needed.

Bare metal: A real server, not a virtual one.

Scalability or Elasticity?: Scalability is the capability of a system or virtual machine to add computing resources on demand. Elasticity is the ability of a system to dynamically adapt to workload requirements of a customer, for example, doubling available resources during peak hours but reducing them at night. Elasticity is more related to cloud applications, where scalability is an infrastructure feature.

Yottabyte: The largest data definition so far. A Yottabyte of data would require a data center the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. They are small states, right? Sure but the cost of that storage? One hundred trillion dollars.

Sources: Tech Republic, Stack Overflow, Gizmodo, and MIT.