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NIST Seeks Comments on Draft Guide to Cloud Computing

The cloud computing research team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is requesting public comments on a draft of its most complete guide to cloud computing to date.

NIST Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations (Special Publication 800-146) explains cloud computing technology in plain terms and provides practical information for information technology decision makers interested in moving into the cloud. Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources—for example networks, servers, storage, applications and services—that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

The Federal CIO has asked NIST to lead federal efforts on standards for data portability, cloud interoperability and security. The goal is to help the federal government reap the benefits of cloud computing.

"Cloud computing is not a single kind of system," explains project leader Lee Badger. "Since cloud computing spans a spectrum of underlying technologies and configuration possibilities, each organization's requirements call for different cloud technologies and configurations." SP 800-146 provides that level of guidance.

The new guide reviews the NIST definition of cloud computing, provides an overview of cloud environments with detailed discussions of each and then provides a section on each of the main cloud environments—Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Each of these sections looks at the environment's scope, its capabilities, benefits, and known issues and concerns. The publication also provides information on how organizations should consider the relative opportunities and risks of cloud computing. A section on Open Issues covers computing performance, reliability, economics, compliance and data and applications security. The final section discusses general recommendations. Appendices cover typical costs of cloud computing, roles and responsibilities, acronyms, terminology and resources for further investigation.

NIST Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations, SP 800-146, can be downloaded from the NIST Web site at Comments should be sent to 800-146comments [at] (800-146comments[at]nist[dot]gov) by June 13, 2011.

Released May 12, 2011, Updated February 1, 2023