According to Statista, cloud computing generates billions of US dollars in revenue annually and shows few signs of slowing down. Cloud services have never been more relevant than over the past 18 months of the global pandemic. More businesses depend upon their employees accessing cloud computing services to be able to work remotely.


Standards can help to provide confidence and guidance in a rapidly changing industry like cloud computing. Terminology is one key area where standards provide clarity. As such, the joint ISO and IEC subcommittee for cloud computing (ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 38) has recently published the definitive reference for cloud computing. ISO/IEC 22123-1Information technology — Cloud computing — Part 1: Vocabulary, provides terms and definitions for vocabulary used in this field.


Consolidated Terms – Speaking the same language


ISO/IEC 22123-1 consolidates in one document all the terms and definitions for cloud computing established in previous ISO/IEC standards, starting with: 

  • ISO/IEC 17788Information technology – Cloud computing – Overview and vocabulary; adding in,
  • ISO/IEC 19086Information technology – Cloud computing – Service level agreement (SLA) framework 
  • ISO/IEC 19941Information technology – Cloud computing – Interoperability and portability 
  • ISO/IEC 19944Information technology – Cloud computing – Cloud services and devices: Data flow, data categories and data use; and,
  • ISO/IEC TS 23167Information technology – Cloud computing – Common Technologies and Techniques

Standardized terminology provides a set of agreed definitions and terms for concepts in cloud computing, reducing the level of ambiguity associated with words and phrases allowing people to speak the same language.


Cloud computing is defined as a paradigm for enabling network access to a scalable and elastic pool of shareable physical or virtual resources with self-service provisioning and administration on-demand. This flexible form of distributed computing allows for the distribution of data and computation across a spectrum of computing devices located on-premises, on the edge, or in high-capacity data centres—using private, public or hybrid cloud deployment models.


“Cloud computing enables one to choose the most efficient place to process their data — whether it be local data emerging from devices at the edge, or central collections of data in a data centre”, says Steve Holbrook, Chair of ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 38.


The standard also defines well known cloud computing terms like Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), container as well as defining the key roles of Cloud service provider (CSP) and Cloud service customer (CSC). It consolidates terms related to cloud computing such as cloud computing deployment models, roles and responsibilities, cloud computing characteristics, service agreements, interoperability, cloud data as well as security and privacy.


As ISO/IEC 22123-2, Information technology —Cloud computing — Part 2: Concepts, the second part in the series nears completion this year, it will be considered the definitive reference for cloud computing concepts. ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 38 plans to maintain ISO/IEC 22123-1 and ISO/IEC 22123-2 through revisions over time as needed and potentially supersede ISO/IEC 17788 in the future.


IEC also maintains a complete terminology database for use in standardization related to electrotechnology.

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