By John Dixon, Consulting Architect
I came across an article from a couple of months ago by Jason Bloomberg in Forbes entitled, “Why Implement Cloud When Cloudwashing Will Suffice?” The article briefly describes adoption of cloud computing and the term “cloudwashing” – what vendors and customers are tending to do in order to get started with cloud computing. The article makes a lot of good points. Below, I highlighted a few of the points that stood out the most to me and added in some of my own thoughts.
“Cloudwashing typically refers to vendors’ and service providers’ exaggerated marketing, where they label a product as “Cloud” even when such designation is either completely false or at best, jumping the gun on a future capability ... But it’s not just vendors and service providers who Cloudwash – executives often exaggerate the truth as well ... some CIOs are only too happy to put OpenStack or CloudFoundry on their Cloud roadmaps, secure in the knowledge that they will now be able to present themselves as forward-looking and Cloud savvy...”
I’ve seen this firsthand in various conversations. And I don’t think it’s malicious or wrong – I think it represents a limited understanding of cloud computing. I like to point back to recent history and the days of datacenter consolidation. The whole thing was pretty straightforward...we installed some software on servers (vSphere, Hyper-V, or similar) and went to work virtualizing servers. From that, I derived benefits that were easy to understand – fewer servers to administer, less power consumed, vastly improved time to provision new servers, etc. We didn’t have to do much measurement of those things either. Who needs measurement when you consolidate, say, at least ten servers onto one. The whole thing was very comfortable. I think “cloudwashing” is a good term, and it feels like an attempt to replay datacenter consolidation in terms of cloud computing. And...It’ll be BETTER! After all, it is cloud, so the benefits must be greater!
Not so fast though. Mr. Bloomberg makes a key point later in the article, and I agree 100%.
“The underlying story [of cloud computing] is one of business transformation. Cloud Computing does not simply represent new ways of procuring IT assets or software. It represents new ways of doing business. Cloud, along with other Digital Transformation trends in IT including the rise of mobile technologies, the Internet of Things, and the Agile Architecture that facilitates the entire mess, are in the process of revolutionizing how businesses – and people – leverage technology. And as with any revolution, the change is both difficult to implement and impossible to understand while it’s happening.”
I think the author is absolutely correct here. Cloud Computing is a new capability for the business. One of the most exciting prospects of the whole cloud computing scene is this: it allows a business to take on more risk, fail fast, learn, and begin again. Call that the Deming Cycle or P-D-C-A, or whatever you like. Cloud computing has made real the fantastic growth of companies like Uber (valuation greater than Hertz and Avis combined) and Airbnb (in 2014, estimated to book more “hotel stays” than Hilton). Two crazy ideas that were no doubt implemented in “the cloud.”
Cloud is difficult to implement – if you think of it like any other technology project. Where do you start? How do you know when you’re done? Maybe it is not an implementation project at all.
“The choices facing today’s executives are far more complex than is it Cloud or isn’t it, or should we do Cloud or not. Instead, the question is how to keep your eye on your business goals as technology change transforms the entire business landscape.”
I couldn’t agree more with this. I think that IT organizations should specialize in its company’s core business, rather than administering systems that do not provide competitive advantages. At GreenPages, we’re currently bringing to market a set of Professional and Cloud services that will help organizations take advantage of cloud computing that I'm pretty excited about. To learn more about the evolution of the corporate IT department and what it means for IT decision makers, check out my ebook.
What do you think of Jason's take on cloudwashing?