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

Advice Nick Booth Feb 8, 2013

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

You can almost feel sorry for these old school vendors. At least they have an admirable heritage.

Disruptive technologists
There is no such Oracle-like legacy attached to many of the pushy imposters gatecrashing the cloud computing model.

One the tell tale signs of a vendor that doesn't 'get' the cloud is the use of the phrase disruptive technology in all its marketing.

“The word disruptive is overused and inappropriate. The last thing any business wants is more disruption,” says Mark Seemann, CEO of cloud telephony firm Synety. “It's off-putting for many businesses.  They want to do things smarter, quicker, cheaper and they want it to be easy, without hassle, and certainly without disruption. Cloud services, like telephony, are meant to be easy, efficient and cheap. That’s not disruptive.”

Hosts dressed up as clouds
Contract terms give away the bogus cloud operators says Richard Davies, CEO for ElasticHosts.

Beware any firm that talks about contracts with fixed medium-term capacity commitments. Another giveaway is the one day notice period for changes. “If they need 24 hours notice to scale up your capacity, they're not a cloud,” says Davies, “that means they're having to ask their provider to manually adjust capacity on your behalf.”

If the contract attempts to set costs at a fixed rate, your service is not a cloud. They're hosts dressing up as clouds. There's a lot more to offering a cloud service than finding the word 'Host' and replacing it with 'Cloud' when preparing the marketing brochures.

"It's quite common for hosts to dress up and try to pass themselves off as clouds," says Dominic Monkhouse, MD of Peer1."Transvendors are quite fashionable in the IT industry. It's mostly harmless, unless it affects the poor users, who suddenly find all their data is gone for good."

Aas bandits
Campbell Williams, technology strategy director at Six Degrees Group, says acronyms and defensive jargon signify a fatal lack of confidence. “Everything's becomes one great big pile of aas,” says Williams.

At CloudExpo, one speaker shoved “as a service” in front of storage, backup, database, desktop and applications. Worse, his presentation was called Cloud 2.0 – New Paradigm.

“Stop spray-painting over your own graffiti and tell us something interesting!” says Williams, who says these bluffers are actually doing us all a disservice. “They're helping no-one and  setting up the whole industry for ridicule.”

Anything as a service is a basic cloud services anyway, he says. It's still Cloud 1.0.

All cloud and no concrete
Bogus cloud operators are very thin on details, says Peter Chadha, CEO of Steegle.com:

“They can never give examples of use, other than Dropbox,” says Chadha, who says there's often very little long term planning. “they think more about entering the cloud than they do about exiting it. But the exit is important - how will they liberate their data?”

There are countless 'old-school' products that have rebranded themselves by just adding 'cloud' to their product name, says Ditlv Bradahl, CEO of OnAPP, which makes cloud enabling systems for data centres and hosting companies.

Backups are now cloud backups, suddenly servers are cloud servers and network devices are cloud enabled. Even though it's the same backups, servers and network devices that were around 10 years ago, he says

“It's always amusing to ask a sales guy what he actually means when he says cloud. It soon becomes clear that they are never asked that question,” says Bradahl. “The trouble is, most of the people they speak to also have no idea.”

Don't be one of them.

CHECKLIST

Ten signs that mark a cloud bluffer, courtesy of James Henigan, MD at cloud vendor Rise,

  1. SLAs are a stupid number of 9s or guarantee 100 percent uptime
  2. It refers to iTunes or Xbox Live when talking about business workloads in the cloud.
  3. It sats it is always cheaper than on-premise - it isn't, it doesn't have to be
  4. It tells customers they have to move everything to the cloud - most people want a hybrid
  5. It says cloud is a one size fits all - every business is different
  6. It says only large businesses can benefit from cloud.
  7. It can’t articulate the difference between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS
  8. It can’t articulate the difference between private cloud and public cloud
  9. It says you really don’t have to understand the technology
  10. It says cloud is risk-free - it's not as insecure as some critics say but there are still security concerns