Cloud service providers: what are their five biggest lies?

Nick Booth Advice 26 Feb, 2013

Cloud computing salesmen are gaining a reputation for being like virtual estate agents. But what are the most misleading claims they make?

The liars in the cloud service industry divide into two rival factions. In one camp are those who don't mean to mislead people, but they don't know what they are saying. In the other camp, are the deliberate deceivers, who know exactly what they are talking about.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether these falsehoods accidental errors of ignorance or deliberate errors of omission, they're all going to hurt you.

Here are the five most popular issues you can be deceived over.

It will save you money
One of the most obviously misleading claims is that cloud computing is cheaper than your current IT services. How can anyone say that with any confidence, says Mateen Greenway a chief technologist for HP's public sector enterprise services division. This is a hard claim to make as you never compare like for like, he argues.

"This is a difficult one as cloud is essentially designed for scale-out applications. Most legacy systems are traditional scale-up applications, so they don’t really yield any saving that couldn't be gained from a traditional consolidation and virtualisation,” says Greenway.

If they were honest, cloud services salesmen would admit that the cloud model mostly benefits those with volatile applications or environments. "When applications use a relatively consistent set of resources, without major demand peaks or troughs, the cloud will not be cheaper," he says.

Greenway likens the cloud to the heroin-dealing business model: “Some people can become addicted and consume much more than in the past!” he says.

Yes, the cloud is a lot cheaper than a dedicated hosted platform, but try doing a calculation on Amazon Web services configuring large virtual servers and lots of space. It will end up costing at least the same as a dedicated platform, if not more.

When applications use a relatively consistent set of resources, without major demand peaks or troughs, the cloud will not be cheaper

Many clients get stung on the licensing of servers, as virtualisation causes their numbers to grow like Japanese knotweed, according to Andrew Hillier, CTO of licensing management specialist Cirba. "Many companies can get caught out over the licensing costs unless they manage it right," he says.

When it comes to costing software as a service applications, the very use of the word cloud is a lie anyway, say Ash Patel, cloud product manager, Insight. "Cloud is all about pay per use but many vendors and suppliers say it is a price per month mode, set for a minimum of 12 months and it has to be paid up-front, says Patel, "That sounds awfully like perpetual licensing to me."

It's easy
Moving to cloud is easy, say vendors. No it isn't says HP’s Greenway. “It's still very hard to move data to or from the cloud, and this can generate hidden costs.”

It is especially difficult to move from one cloud supplier to another. Few existing data or application types were designed to work well in the cloud (because there wasn't a cloud when they were designed) and clashing software licensing models are causing problems.

The oversimplification of the cloud is a lie says Karl Mendez, CEO at hosting company CWCS. “Although the essential characteristics are clearly defined and reasonably straightforward, the technology behind cloud is developing at a rapid rate and is cutting edge stuff,” says Mendez. "we’ve had people contact us that have been quoted by other hosting companies for dedicated servers - under the guise of a cloud service."