The new part, the magical part that actually does deserve some hype, is the series of virtualization and abstraction layers that settled over the top of the sharp corners, odd shapes, knobby protrusions and unusual smells that turned traditional data centers from something that could only fit anywhere if "anywhere" was a very oddly shaped place.
"Cloud computing" gave APIs and middleware and connections to storage and I/O and networks that needed few complicated configurations and no constant monitoring and upkeep because someone else was handling all that.
"Cloud Computing" didn't offer end users "computing" of any kind. It offered them access to the apps and data they needed, as much as they needed, right away, without having to listen to IT describe all the complications every time there was a change, or pay for half the hardware on the continent very time there needed to be an upgrade.
The reduction in headaches for IT and easy access to the real functions end users wanted to use are what caused the hype about cloud computing. It was the imagination of IT and the end users that drove the desire for cloud and the hype about it, not the other way around.
That's why cloud is simultaneously the most effective mechanism for accumulating BS and the most effective approach end-user companies can take to match their own requirements by virtualizing specific parts of the IT in the company and hiring specialized services outside of it.
It's also why "cloud" is the most hyped, most meaningless term on computing; it was never really meant to be anything else.
"Cloud" doesn't mean a particular type of software or hardware, or even a particular type of service provider.
"Cloud" is just a metaphor that means "someone over there is going to take care of all that part for us and we don't have to worry about all the grimy details."
That's the part that gets end users excited and, usually, scares the BS out of vendors who can't see far enough into the fog to be able to figure out which part of it they should occupy.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.