Don’t Mention the Cloud

"I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it alright."

The “cloud” term has started to turn like the leaves on the trees outside my Window.  It’s yellowing, drying out and about to fall to Earth to be raked up and composted into fertilizer if something isn’t done to stop it.

Where once it was the magic phrase that opened any door, the term “cloud” is now considered persona non grata in many meetings with customers. When everything’s a cloud – and today “cloud washing” is an epidemic on an unprecedented scale – the term loses meaning.

When everything’s a cloud, nothing is.

In fact, not only does “cloud” mean less today than a year ago, what it does mean is not good. For many customers, “cloud” is just a pig with cloud lipstick.  And who’s fault is this?  It’s ours – all of ours in the IT industry.  We’ve messed it up – potentially killing the golden goose.

A Vblock is not a cloud (not that a Vblock is a pig). It’s just a big block of “converged infrastructure.” Whatever its merits, it ain’t a cloud. You can build a cloud on top of a Vblock, which is great, but with out the cloud management environment from CA, BMC, VMware (vCloud) or others, it’s just hardware.

A big EMC storage array is not a cloud either, but that doesn’t stop EMC from papering airports around the globe with “Journey to the Private Cloud” banners. Nothing against EMC.  And VMware too often still confuses your cloud state with what percent of your servers are virtualized.  Virtualization is not cloud.  Virtualization is not even a requirement for cloud – you can cloud without a VM.

A managed hosting service is not a cloud.

Google AdWords is not cloud “Business Process as a Service” as Gartner would have you believe. It’s advertising!  Nor is ADP Payroll a cloud (sorry again, Gartner), even if it’s hosted by ADP.  It’s payroll.  By their logic, Gartner might start to include McDonalds in their cloud definition (FaaS – Fat as a Service?). I can order books at Amazon and they get mailed to my house.  Is that “Book Buying as a Service” too?  Ridiculous!

And then there’s Microsoft’s “To the Cloud” campaign with a photo app that I don’t believe even exists.

It’s no wonder, then, that customers are sick and tired and can’t take it (cloud) anymore.  Which is why it’s not surprising when many customer “cloud” initiatives are actually called something else.  They call it dynamic service provisioning, or self service IT, or an automated service delivery model.  Just don’t use the “cloud” term to describe it or you might find yourself out in the street quicker than you can say “resource pooling.”

There’s also that pesky issue about “what is a cloud, anyway?” that I wrote about recently. For users, it’s a set of benefits like control, transparency, and productivity.  For providers, it’s Factory IT – more output at higher quality and lower cost.

When talking about “cloud computing” to business users and IT leaders, perhaps it’s time to stop using the word cloud and start using a less ambiguous term. Perhaps “factory IT” or “ITaaS” or some other term to describe “IT capabilities delivered as a service.”

No matter what, when speaking to customers be careful about using the “cloud” term.  Be precise and make sure you and your audience both know what you mean.

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