Recently, I was having a conversation with a prospect about what’s going on with cloud computing offerings. He related to me how his management team was confused with all the “Cloud Washing” going on and was having difficulty evaluating our integrated end-to-end solution against other individual cloud solutions. Truthfully, if I didn’t know what’s going on, I’d be confused, too. So many companies have called themselves cloud providers when they are nowhere near the cloud.
Cloud Washing Defined
So what is this so called “Cloud Washing”? Marketing people seem to latch onto the cloud to get attention. If you are not savvy to the cloud hype cycle, that strategy will work on you. Because the definition of the cloud is sometimes unclear, the marketing departments tend to call everything the “Cloud”. In my humble, but accurate opinion, the cloud is Information Technology Services delivered over the Internet to the Customer, exactly like a utility. It doesn’t matter if it is Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), or Information Technology as a Service (ITaaS), it must be delivered like Electricity, or Water and Telephone. Unfortunately, we have Managed Service Providers and Software Development companies slapping the cloud onto existing products and services.
If you find yourself paying the same rates or higher than traditional IT costs, you probably have a pig with lipstick. Those falling for ‘private’ cloud are not achieving their objectives. Cloud services should have a significant savings compared to hardware, software, and salary costs you pay now. This will depend a lot on how much of your IT you have already outsourced but nonetheless you should receive greater value and a reduced cost. You should NOT be buying expensive Internet bandwidth or VPN hardware to get your cloud service projects off the ground. Now you will have to pay a fee for numbers of users when it comes to software licensing, but that’s to be expected. Cloud Solution Providers should have their systems baked and ready for consumption over existing Internet connections with a business firewall at your end. The order process should be smooth and fluid. If you find them writing a Statement of Work that looks like a project, start asking questions. In addition, they should be able to provide meaningful Service Level Agreements that start at 100% for data centre availability and work down from there for individual applications or dedicated Servers.
Another thing to be greatly concerned about are data centers with fancy buildings and gear, who sell real estate in their data center, and have decided to add Cloud Solutions as an afterthought because they figured out they can make more margin. Many only offer cage space, racks, services, ping, power, and pipe. They leave the rest to you. Well times have changed. Companies are burdened with certifications and compliance, which requires extensive expertise. If you want to be a true cloud provider in 2013, you need to have Cloud Security, Cloud Back Up, and Disaster Recovery built into your cloud service. Otherwise you are not securing the cloud. PERIOD.
The cloud provider should be able to show past performance, and have case studies, and testimonials.
In short, your cloud services should be easy to acquire, easy to implement and safe and secure. Having a cloud provider with experience in the small business market; able to deal with both the commodity based services like Hosted Exchange and Microsoft Office while integrating your industry specific applications all under one solution will also make your experience in the cloud a better one. So beware of the charlatans, be smart, and come on in. The cloud is fine.