“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact” – Sherlock Holmes

It’s cloud. It’s cloud-ready. It’s cloud insert-name-here. As analysts we have been running into a lot of vendors labeling traditional products as ‘cloud’. Two years ago we expected the practice to die out once customers understood cloud services. We were wrong – vendors are still doing it rather than actually building the technology. Call it cloudwashing, cloudification, or just plain BS. As an enterprise buyer, how can you tell whether the system you are thinking of purchasing is a cloud application or not? It should be easy – just look at the products branded ‘cloud’, right? But dig deeper and you see it’s not so simple. Sherlock Holmes made a science of detection, and being an enterprise buyer today can feel like a being detective in a complex investigation. Vendors have anticipated your questions and have answers ready. What to do?

Start by drilling down: what is behind the labels? Is it cloud or just good old enterprise bloatware? Or is it MSO with a thin veneer of cloud?

We pause here to state that there is nothing inherently wrong with enterprise software or MSO. There is also no reason cloud is necessarily better for you. Our goal here is to orient your thinking beyond labels and give you some tips so you can an educated consumer.

We have seen a grab bag of cloudwashes. We offer the following questions to help you figure out what’s real:

  • Does it run at a third party provider? (not on-premise or ‘private’ cloud)
  • Is the service self-service (i.e., you can use it without other user interactions or without downloading – not installed ‘on the edge’ of your IT network)
  • Is service metered? If you stopped using it tomorrow would bills stop?
  • Can you buy it with a credit card?
  • Can your brother-in-law sign up with the same service?
  • Do you need to buy a software license?
  • Does it have an API?
  • Does it autoscale?
  • Did the vendor start from scratch or rewrite its product?
  • Is the product standalone (i.e., not a proxy-type interface on top of an existing stack)?
  • Can you deploy without assistance; or does it require professional services to design, deploy, and operate?

The more of these questions that get a ‘No’ answer, the more likely your vendor is marketing ‘cloud’ instead of selling cloud services. Why does that matter? Because real cloud environments offer specific advantages in elasticity, flexibility, scalability, self-service, pay-as-you-go, and various other areas, which are not present in many non-cloud solutions.

What cloudwashing exercises have you seen? Please share in the comments below.