- Tech vendors have been sending mixed and confusing messages to consumers about the cloud at every level.
- Surely, there must be a better way of marketing cloud offerings that separates consumer cloud services from IT cloud initiatives.
My position about the cloud from day one had nothing to do with hyping the ‘wonder’ of the cloud, focusing instead on the broader philosophical changes that cloud technologies bring to IT in general: for example, the elegance and simplicity of choosing whatever resources you need from a tidy little menu and having them available on demand. Reducing spin-up times from weeks to minutes, now that’s magic. I come from a computing background of building everything from scratch, because I am an old nerd and that was pretty much the only way to get things done, so I cannot help but be a rabid fan of elegance and simplicity. Of course, that degree of simplicity always has a price and we are paying that now in the form of competing standards and inconsistent terminology, making it difficult for IT managers and consumers alike to understand their options. Instead of making the conversation easier, this makes it more complex.
One of the most enduring lessons I learned during my time as a corporate middle manager was from a very no-nonsense VP who drilled into me the idea that perception is reality. I didn’t believe her at first, because I honestly thought that somehow the ‘truth’ was self-evident. However, as I evolved as a manager and technologist, I learned again and again that perceptions do become realities – in spite of all evidence to the contrary. We have all heard and experienced this over the years: “processors from this company are just better than the ones from that company” or “this vendor is always the most expensive and that company’s solution is proprietary” when in fact the truth lies in a completely different direction. Advertising-based misinformation about cloud technology may well be affecting cloud adoption in the same manner.
As a technology analyst, I’ve been researching and writing about data center and cloud technology for over five years; after all that time, I remain extremely disappointed in how the messaging about the cloud has been muddied and diluted over the years. At first, the hype had every vendor rushing to declare their products ‘cloud-ready.’ Then came the terrible TV advertising about how much better our lives as consumers will be ‘in the cloud.’ Just recently, there was a commercial from a storage vendor (which shall remain nameless) extolling how a ‘private cloud’ NAS sitting on your living room end table was somehow better than cloud storage… in spite of the fact that most data saved to the cloud resides happily in well-protected and secure data centers using encrypted, enterprise-class storage and standardized backup routines. Mixed consumer messages abound and can easily convert the poorly informed into the misinformed.
So, now we have gone full circle in developing consumer perception. First, cloud = magic; then, cloud = mundane; and finally, cloud = overcrowded and inconvenient, all in the space of about five years. You and I, though, we’re not typical consumers; we’re experienced enterprise technologists. However, our executives and business managers read the headlines howling about data security and shortcomings within the cloud that might have no bearing in the data center, and it becomes our job to clean up the mess that cloud merchants have left us. What should the perception of the cloud actually be? Has the term ‘the cloud’ finally become too polluted to retain meaning? I can’t help but be reminded of a really old Saturday Night Live sketch about a product called Shimmer: “Is it a floor wax or a dessert topping? It’s BOTH!” I guess it really is a matter of perception.