Cloud Conflation

by Edward Newman on 02/29/2012

Good for what ails ya! We are a few years into this whole Cloud thing now and I’m surprised by how people still talk about it as a Cure All, some sort of silver bullet, conflating Cloud as a Service Delivery model with all sorts of things like collaboration, increased productivity, analytics – analytics?!, and a new model for application development.  Wow, where can I get some of that?  How much would you pay for such a wonder drug?  You need only open an industry rag, scholarly journal, or turn on the TV to get blasted with some of this hype.  At least I haven’t seen a “To the Cloud!” commercial in awhile.

I think we need to be much more precise in how we talk about Cloud because all of this squishiness is not only misleading, but it distracts from how we should be designing and adopting solutions that use this service delivery model.  And let me once again beg for a new moniker for this service delivery model, I’m so over Cloud.

Cloud is often conflated with filesharing and collaboration in the consumer marketplace, take a look at Apple and Microsoft’s work in this space.  At least with iCloud you could say it is a collection of services delivered via the Cloud service delivery model, varying from information synching across devices to device finding.  I never could figure out what Microsoft was selling with it’s commercials.

Maybe I’ve just spent too much of my life as a service management bigot, but looking at Cloud as a service delivery model, while not perhaps the best answer, is one of the more clean ways to think of it.  It’s stuff like the conclusion to Andrew McAfee’s quite good piece in the Harvard Business Review, “What Every CEO Needs to Know About the Cloud” that causes confusion: “Cloud computing offers advantages in, at a minimum, productivity, collaboration, analytics, and application development”.  What?!  How does Cloud computing do that?  Cloud as a service delivery model can make consumption of collaboration services, or analytics services, or access to application development environments easier thereby leading to enhanced productivity, but someone needs to design the services that deliver that.  Those services are finally showing up in the wild, but many of them aren’t enterprise strength yet.  It’s comments like these in management journals C-level executives read that set a huge expectation gap and are adding to the tension between IT and the Business.

The expectation on the business side of the house is that Cloud holds the answers to solving many problems or concerns that companies are facing today: flexibility; agility; time to market; time to value; and lower costs.  These are huge expectations, and the business is looking at IT and are wondering why they aren’t delivering all of these things now, pointing to articles and commercials promising that these benefits are already here.  I firmly believe that IT needs to become a Service Provider to the business or the business will find new Service Providers to replace them, but hype and imprecise language does not a Service Provider make.  EMC IT has spent the last two years transforming itself into a Service Provider and transparently publishing its services and comparable services available from other providers, an informed consumer is much more likely to make a good choice.

For Cloud to succeed as a service delivery model there must be services readily available, not just consumer strength ones, we need enterprise strength.  They are being built, and as McAfee noted and EMC IT has shown companies should be building some of these services themselves and leverage the delivery model to drive out cost, improve adoption, and increase agility.  There are many upsides to Cloud as a service delivery model, let’s not muddy the water by conflating Cloud with the benefits that services delivered via Cloud can provide if properly designed, implemented, priced and delivered.

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