When "cloud" became A Big Thing several years ago, we were all greatly amused by vendors who simply added a "cloud" moniker to familiar offerings from a previous era.
If cloud is the new shiny thing -- and, as a vendor, you're flat-footed in having new offerings -- why not simply rebrand the familiar as "cloud"?
Hence the term cloudwashing - painting a thin cloud veneer over what is most certainly not cloud.
Vendors weren't the only ones doing a bit of cloudwashing.
Within many IT shops, the notion of a private cloud became quite popular -- a cool thing to do. An awful large number of ordinary virtualized server clusters got internally -- and aspirationally -- rebranded as "private cloud".
Fast forward to 2016 -- and cloudwashing is still with us, but in a different form. Early versions of cloudwashing were responses to clear gaps between expectations and reality.
Modern cloudwashing is no different.
I would argue that, when it comes to enterprise IT cloud strategies, we're still cloudwashing ourselves: vendors and IT shops alike.
Modern Cloud Motivations
Early cloud motivations were mostly about saving money and not having to deal with traditional IT organizations. While those themes certainly haven't lost their appeal, I think there's a bigger motivation on the table today: abject fear.
We've all seen how disruptive digital-born business models can be. We will inevitably see many more. That's particularly worrisome if you're at the helm of a large, successful company that *wasn't* born digital.
Pick your industry, it doesn't really matter.
These same large companies often have huge expense lines for traditional IT infrastructure: plumbing and plumbers. Maybe you can't be as nimble as a digital disruptor, but you certainly can learn to use their weaponry.
And so it has begun: board-level and CEO mandates to reposition enterprise IT as more cloud-like, fully realizing that cloud is the modern architectural and operational model of choice --- irregardless of public or private.
Time to get serious about this cloud stuff -- like it or not.
Foggy Thinking On Enterprise IT Cloud Strategy
So many folks I talk to only focus in on narrow parts of the cloud discussion vs. embracing it architecturally. They see individual pieces and parts, but not necessarily how it all comes together.
A little SaaS here, a little private cloud there, maybe a handful of experiments on the popular public IaaS clouds, a bit of glueware -- we're good, right?
No, you're not. Historians of IT evolution can point to many times when key architectural pieces went in haphazard, and had to be ripped, replaced and rebuilt at great expense and with considerable amounts of time lost.
You don't want to be that guy.
Put differently, the difficult architectural choices you make today will be around for a long time, whether they were the right choices or not. I am adamant in encouraging a view where the pieces work together vs. separately.
Don't cloudwash yourself :)
A-La-Carte, or Integrated?
We expect our on-premises IT stacks of applications, databases and infrastructure to work reasonably well together. Why wouldn't we expect the same of SaaS (software as a service), PaaS (platform as a service) and IaaS (infrastructure as a service)?
I would assert that SaaS modules that are designed to work together is architecturally more powerful than standalone choices where you end up being the application integrator across functional pillars. Here, I believe Oracle has a strong advantage.
Imagine an application that told you which sales reps had the most profitable customers -- and could investigate HR records to determine potential cause and effect? Trying to do that with standalone functionality (financials, CRM, HR, ERP, etc.) would be quite difficult.
But it's a natural outcome of SaaS modules that are inherently built to share information and logic with each other.
I would also assert that PaaS functionality that is designed to work with your SaaS choices is architecturally more attractive than trying to mash up two worlds that have never really met. Modern enterprises want to build and improve on what they have, and quickly. That's the goal.
I would further assert that PaaS that can detect and exploit underlying IaaS functionality is extremely desirable. One popular PaaS offering promotes the fact that it is infrastructure agnostic. To me, that means it doesn't really run well anywhere.
Why should cloud be any different?
So, hey, all you standalone Iaas, PaaS and SaaS vendors -- my take is that you're practicing modern cloudwashing. Your thingie without all the other thingies working with it won't be very useful.
Unless your customers are willing to do the heavy lifting on their own.
Big, Hairy Enterprise Applications
Those are interesting, but not where the real action is.
Line-of-business VPs don't get too worked up over that sort of stuff; they reserve their passion for the big, hairy applications that power their larger enterprises.
So, is your private cloud up to that? How about most public clouds?
We won't be able to fully embrace cloud architectures -- both public and private -- until we're comfortable with their ability to confidently run the stuff that can get you fired.
My, the room got awfully quiet all of the sudden :)
Public And Private Clouds Working Together
Many larger enterprises will want an architecture where they have choices as to where things run: behind the firewall, on a public cloud, or frequently a combination of both. Hard to argue otherwise. However, popular private and public cloud choices just aren't designed to work together.
And that's a big problem.
Every time I see a familiar infrastructure vendor touting hybrid cloud, I ask myself a simple question -- can they offer a reasonable compatible enterprise-class public cloud consumption option to what they're selling on-premises today?
So many can't. VMware? EMC? Dell? HP? NetApp? Cisco?
To be fair, I will give both Microsoft and IBM partial points in this category. Oracle gets full points, though.
The rest of y'all are just practicing modern cloudwashing in my book. And leaving your customers high and dry.
Curbing Cloudwashing: Asking Hard Questions
If getting to an enterprise cloud architecture isn't just a theoretical exercise for your IT leadership team, I'd encourage you to start asking vendors some harder questions:
- Can you deliver architectural equivalency between on-premises and public cloud solutions? And support both ends?
- Do you have customers who are comfortable running their most demanding workloads on your solutions?
Yes, I'm setting you up for an Oracle approach. Because, right now, we're the only folks who actually can answer these hard questions.
You'll just have to decide for yourself whether these are the right questions to ask :)
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