Cloud computing is a general term that can be applied to any vendor service that involves delivery over the Internet. (The label "cloud" was inspired by the symbol for the Internet on a flow chart.) Therefore, if any component of the vendor's offering relies upon the Internet in order to work, the vendor can feel justified in associating the product with the label cloud. In addition to delivering an Internet-based service, however, a true cloud service also offers:
- User self-provisioning
- Pay-per-use billing
- A multi-tenant architecture.
- A virtualized infrastructure.
- Linear scalability.
As the cloud computing delivery model becomes more popular and the uses for cloud services expand, so will the number of vendors hoping to present their offerings as having a cloud feature or function. Cloud washing has been compared to green washing, the rebranding of products and services as being friendly to the environment. In both instances, the word "wash" means to apply a thin layer of paint to freshen something up and make it look new. The paint, in this case, is a marketing message.
See also: green cloud