For the last two years, I have resisted the urge to jump on the “cloud” band wagon. The IT “cloud” means nothing to most people primarily because it means so many different things to too many people. 

In meteorological terms, the word “cloud” is broad and therefore broken into various classifications. We need to do the same for the “cloud infrastructure” category. (Other IT “cloud” classifications can be found here.)

To solve this problem, I propose the industry continue to rip from the weatherman’s lexicon. There are three primary cloud types in the atmosphere: Cumulus, Stratus, and Nimbus. Cumulus hold little water and have low performance; Stratus have increased capacity and more energy and Nimbus are some of the densest clouds that usually create weather (higher performance).

Translating from one taxonomy to the lexicon of IT, we can easily establish three predominant cloud infrastructures: CCI, SCI, and NCI. Descriptions are below.

Cumulus Cloud Infrastructure (CCI)

Companies like Amazon Web Services would be classified as Cumulus Cloud Infrastructure (CCI). The services are fantastic when used according to their design, but not nearly robust enough (at this point) to run hefty MS Exchange environments and other taxing workloads.

Stratus Cloud Infrastructure (SCI)

SCI deployments include managed service providers. MSPs operate as a robust “cloud” for their customers. Typical MSPs handle many different workloads including Exchange, DR and other services.

Nimbus Cloud Infrastructure (NCI)

Internal clouds (yes, like those from @scalecomputing) create an NCI infrastructure that is capacity rich with scalable performance. Like their CCI and SCI counterparts, NCI is easy to manage for the end user. Some NCI solutions can be stood up in less than an hour with zero training and are perfect for virtualization (server and VDI), archiving and storage systems consolidation.

NCIs operate by creating a single pool of unified storage that begins small and grows linearly as your data needs increase. IT administrators achieve greater control over their data (than with some CCI and SCI implementations) and increased cost savings while also maintaining simplified management.

It’s worthy to note that I’m not the only one thinking about stratifying cloud service categories. The Nimbus Project (, is an open source ECS/S3 infrastructure-as-a-service project sponsored by the University of Chicago.


SNIA may or may not adopt my categories for the clouds. But if you’re an IT administrator, each strata of coverage may have its place in your organization. Internal clouds provide the most flexibility, control, and performance for the price. Just keep that in mind—and stay dry.