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Cloud Washing: Still? Really?

We’ve got to hand it to Appirio. The San Francisco-based cloud services provider made the best of a bad situation in our industry in 2011 when it announced the winners of its tongue-in-cheek “awards” for the most deceptive — or at least highly sensational — marketing in the space.

At the time, Oracle took top “Washies” honors for its egregious cloud washing, notably because the company that had for years dismissed cloud computing as hype had suddenly “redefined” the term “to include everything that we already do,” as Appirio notes  Larry Ellison famously said.

While the “Washies” were all in good fun, more than a year later, cloud washing remains an issue.

Why are some companies still calling products and services “cloud” when they are not? And how can a consumer navigate this changing industry despite all the obscure marketing claims?

As Forrester’s James Staten has noted at his blog, there are lots of reasons why a vendor might dress a non-cloud solution up with hype-centric, trend-aware copy:

The word can get you a meeting with a key customer and that customer at the end of the day may turn out not to need cloud at all and thus end up buying that vendor’s traditional IT solution. Same with I&O pros. If calling your virtualized server environment cloud gets executive pressure off so you can better plan a real cloud strategy, mission accomplished.

[ See The Turkeys of Cloud: Cloud Washers ]

Whether you go for Gartner’s definition, that from NIST, or something else entirely, for our purposes, let’s stick to the basics. In order to determine whether an advertised solution really is “cloud,” a savvy consumer ought to evaluate:

Consumer control
Cloud customers ought to be able to provision computing capabilities on their own account. If you run into a circumstance where resources are gated, or take far too long to be implemented otherwise, then what you are dealing with is not cloud. With cloud, users directly benefit from either the instant or automatic provisioning of new resources to help better meet demand.

Compute resources can’t rapidly scale to meet demand? It’s not cloud. One of the inherent benefits of the cloud is the ability to quickly spin up new resources. If a solution is simply virtualized, then it’s definitely not enabling the flexibility and value that comes with scalability. (Read: It’s not cloud.)

Consumption-based pricing
You’ve heard it before: Own the base, rent the spike. This is not sales jargon. This is a cloud truism.

Be sure to check out our post demystifying SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS for more cloud clarity. And if all else fails, don’t play dumb — listen to Dilbert.

By Jake Gardner

Posted on February 19, 2013 in Cloud Computing Industry, Cloud Perspectives

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  1. […] Happy Friday! What a week for cloud, with key players sounding off on Azure, AWS, Rackspace, big data, security issues, and cloud washing (yes, still — really). […]

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