How to spot a cloud bluffer - the ten tell-tale giveaways

Among the genuine experts on cloud computing there is a contingent of bogus fellow travellers. Here's how to spot the faux cloud crowd

As we've pointed out elsewhere, no major corporation in their right mind will run a transaction computing system in a virtualised environment.

Traditionalists and cloud sceptics know that when they go to the ATM, not a penny of their money have been virtualised before it is belched out the cashpoint. The companies that built their fortunes on enterprise licence agreements, maintenance contracts and all the old school trappings of big software would be mad to give up their heritage easily. Still they have to be seen to be moving with the times - and at the moment, cloud is the buzzword.

It might be flavour of the month but not everything is what it seems and companies aren't always adhering to what is widely understood by cloud, at least in the way that it's normally defined.

This is why companies stand accused of operating a 'faux cloud' strategy. For example, Oracle's IaaS, claim critics, is not a genuine infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering. “It's the usual Oracle data centre gear,” says cloud purist David Linthicum, founder of Blue Mountain software.

To be fair, Oracle is not the worst offender in the cloud sector. The industry is full of cloud poseurs  passing themselves off as experts to vulnerable CIOs. They range from software giants, to global telcos to Arthur Daley types whose entire estate is rented. So how do you spot a bogus cloud operator?

The industry is full of cloud poseurs  passing themselves off as experts to vulnerable CIOs

Faux Cloud Operators
Before you buy a cloud service from an operator, you should think about the economics of their business, argues Linthicum. If the financial logic doesn't add up, then neither does their business. If a company is using its entire infrastructure over a long term, simply to cover periodic peaks of activity, then surely that is not good business.

The business logic of Oracle's new IaaS on Demand is a shaky foundation for virtualisation, says Linthicum. This system for renting application servers isn't a true on demand service, because it is structured around a three year contract, whose monthly fees cover hardware and maintenance – but only a degree of usage. Surely flexibility (in the form of pay per use) is the whole point of a cloud service. Instead, Oracle demands that you pay extra for software licenses and for peak usage. “That is not the standard cloud model,” says Linthicum. The entire service should be included with the fee.

Neither is Oracle's on demand private cloud a pure cloud service either, but a hybrid born out of the necessity to bridge two worlds. “Cloud computing goes against Oracle's highly profitable way of doing things,” says Linthicum. But as Oracle feels the pain from public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Rackspace, it has to address the shift in the market.