The definition of cloud computing has always been, well, a bit cloudy. The basic idea has been straightforward: If it’s not calculated or stored in a rack in your own office on metal you can touch, it’s in the cloud. If it’s someone else’s machine in someone else’s colo, it’s in the cloud.
The details, though, aren’t as crisp. What you get and when you get it has evolved over the years, shifting as the market begins to understand what people want and what they really need. In the beginning, you got a machine and a root password — that’s about it. Everything else was up to you. Now the tools and techniques for building out infrastructure are getting better. The stock machines, after all, are commodities, so the companies are competing by adding bells and whistles that make your life easier.