cloud terminology glossary

Cloud terminology glossary: AWS, Azure, and GCP

Reading time: about 7 min

Posted by: Jennifer Jackson

According to Gartner, 60% of companies will use an external cloud service provider by 2022. With this growth in cloud computing, three key players—AWS, Azure, and GCP—have emerged, each with its own cloud terminology to describe the features, functionality, and tools of cloud infrastructure. 

And that terminology becomes even more complicated when you’re dealing with more than one cloud provider. For example, AWS refers to a data warehouse as “Redshift,” GCP uses the term “BigQuery,” and Azure calls it “SQL data warehouse.” 

Confusing, right? We know. That’s why we’ve created an interactive cloud terminology glossary. Now it’s easy to find and use the correct cloud terms whether you are using AWS, Azure, or GCP. 


This resource includes:

  • An interactive cloud infrastructure diagram. Just click the icons under each shape to see the appropriate term for AWS, Azure, and GCP.
  • Annotated diagrams for each of the major cloud providers. Compare the terms for AWS, Azure, and GCP in context. 
  • A table with generic, AWS, GCP, and Azure terms, along with their descriptions.

How this cloud terminology glossary helps you 

No matter the situation you encounter when it comes to cloud computing, all of your bases are covered with this easy-to-use reference. You can: 

  • Onboard and train new employees who have experience using a different provider. 
  • Keep your hybrid cloud system running smoothly. Be able to speak to the specifics of each provider to solve problems quickly and knowledgeably. 
  • Audit organizations’ cloud infrastructures accurately regardless of the provider and offer informed suggestions. 
  • Transition your cloud infrastructure from one provider to another with ease. 

cloud terminology

Cloud terminology from A to Z

API endpoints 

Single entryway that allows multiple APIs or microservices to act cohesively

  • AWS: API Gateway 
  • Azure: API Management 
  • GCP: Cloud Endpoints 


Scales resources (of a group) up or down based on usage and rules

  • AWS: Auto-scaling group
  • Azure: VM Scale Sets 
  • GCP: Compute Engine Autoscaler

Availability Zone (AZ)

Distinct locations (within regions) where resources are housed - designed to be isolated from failures in other AZs

  • AWS: Availability Zone 
  • Azure: Availability Zone
  • GCP: Availability Zone

Compute Instances 

Scalable compute instances (servers)

  • AWS: Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) 
  • Azure: Azure VM
  • GCP: Compute Engine 

Content Delivery Network (CDN) 

Global network that delivers content based on the geographic locations of the user

  • AWS: Cloudfront
  • Azure: Azure CDN
  • GCP: Cloud CDN or CDN Interconnect

Data Warehouse

Central repositories of integrated data from one or more disparate sources

  • AWS: Redshift
  • Azure: SQL Data Warehouse
  • GCP: BigQuery 

Domain Name System (DNS) 

Naming database in which internet domain names are located and translated into IP addresses

  • AWS: Route 53
  • Azure: Azure DNS or Traffic Manager
  • GCP: Cloud DNS 

Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Manage access to cloud services and resources securely

  • AWS: Identity Access Management (IAM)
  • Azure: Azure Role-Based ACL (RBAC) or Azure AD
  • GCP: Cloud IAM

Internet Gateway

VPC component that allows communication between instances in VPCs and the internet

  • AWS: IGW

Load Balancing 

Pushes traffic (in a balanced way) across multiple targets in multiple AZs

  • AWS: ELB
  • Azure: Load Balancer or Application Gateway
  • GCP: Cloud Load Balancing 

Managed Data Stream Processing Service

  • AWS: Kinesis 
  • Azure: Stream or Data Lake Analytics 
  • GCP: Dataflow (processing) or Pub/Sub (ingest)

Managed Kubernetes (K8s) Service 

Allows you to run K8s without needing to install and operate your own K8s cluster

  • AWS: Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS)
  • Azure: Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)
  • GCP: Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE)

Managed NoSQL Database Service

Distributed non-relational database service

  • AWS: DynamoDB 
  • Azure: Cosmos DB 
  • GCP: Cloud Firestone, Cloud Bigtable or Cloud Database

Managed SQL Database Engine 

High performance managed SQL engine that runs on a cloud's managed SQL service

  • AWS: Aurora
  • GCP: Cloud Spanner

Managed SQL Database Service

Distributed relational database service capable of running multiple SQL engines

  • AWS: Relational Database Service
  • Azure: SQL Database or Azure Database for MySQL
  • GCP: Cloud SQL

Messaging Queue Service 

Fully managed message queuing service that enables you to decouple and scale microservices, distributed systems, and serverless applications

  • AWS: SQS Queues 
  • Azure: Azure Queue Storage or Service Bus 
  • GCP: Cloud Pub/Sub

Network Address Translation (NAT)

Enable outbound internet traffic from instances in a private subnet

  • AWS: NAT Gateways
  • Azure: NAT Gateways
  • GCP: Cloud NAT

Network Peering

A networking connection between two VPCs that enables the routing traffic between them using private IP addresses

  • AWS: VPC Peering Connections 
  • Azure: Virtual Network Peering
  • GCP: VPC Network Peering 

Network Routes/Routing 

A set of rules that are used to determine where network traffic from subnets and/or gateways are directed

  • AWS: Route Tables 
  • Azure: Azure Virtual Network Routing
  • GCP: Routes

Object Storage 

Scalable, highly available storage for objects

  • AWS: S3  Buckets
  • Azure: Blob Storage
  • GCP: Cloud Storage

Pub/Sub Messaging 

Fully managed pub/sub messaging service that enables you to decouple microservices, distributed systems, and serverless applications

  • AWS: SNS Topics
  • Azure: Event Grid
  • GCP: Cloud Pub/Sub


Worldwide locations where resources are hosted

  • AWS: Region
  • Azure: Region
  • GCP: Region

Security Groups 

Contains a list of security rules that allow or deny network traffic to resources

  • AWS: Security Group
  • Azure: Network Security Group
  • GCP: Compute Engine Firewall Rules 

Serverless Container Service

Run containers without managing servers

  • AWS: Fargate
  • Azure: Azure Container Instances (ACI)
  • GCP: Cloud Run (+GKE)

Serverless Functions 

Event-driven, serverless computing service that runs code in response to events and automatically manages the computing resources required by that code

  • AWS: Lambda Functions
  • Azure: Azure Functions
  • GCP: Cloud Functions

Serverless Orchestration 

Task, processes, and workflow orchestration

  • AWS: Step Functions
  • Azure: Logic Apps


Logical subdivision of an IP network. Can be private or public

  • AWS: Subnet
  • Azure: Subnet 
  • GCP: Subnet

Third Party or Guest Access 

Grant access to resources in your cloud account, another cloud account you own, or a third-party account

  • AWS: Cross-account Roles
  • Azure: RBAC - Guests
  • GCP: Cloud IAM - Service Account 

Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)

A logically isolated section of the cloud where you can launch resources

  • AWS: Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)
  • Azure: Virtual Network (VNet)
  • GCP: Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)

VPC Endpoints 

Privately connects VPC to other cloud and endpoint services

  • AWS: VPC Endpoints 
  • Azure: Virtual Network Service Endpoint
  • GCP: Private Services, Private Google Access and/or Shared VPC

VPN Gateway

Private connection to VPCs

  • AWS: Virtual Private Gateway 
  • Azure: Azure VPN Gateway
  • GCP: Cloud VPN 

Stay up to date on the cloud 

So there you have it. Know at a glance the correct cloud term you should use, whether it’s for AWS, Azure, and GCP. Use this glossary to understand and make more informed decisions when it comes to your cloud infrastructure.

Automatically generate cloud architecture diagrams for AWS, Azure, and GCP to easily visualize and understand your cloud infrastructure with Lucidscale.
Learn more

About the author

Jennifer Jackson profile picture

Jennifer Jackson graduated with her MA from the University of Utah, where she majored in communication and digital media. Jennifer works as a content marketing specialist. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her playing board games, reading, or bingeing TV while drinking copious amounts of iced coffee.

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