Vendor-defined Cloud Computing: Cloudwashing at Its Silliest

Even though Cloud Computing is finally growing out of its teenage sex phase — you know, when everybody’s talking about it, only a few are doing it, but no one’s doing it well — there admittedly remains a substantial amount of confusion about what the Cloud really is. We have a clear definition courtesy of NIST, but the fact still remains that the average person on the street still thinks Cloud Computing has something to do with weather.

Software vendors with Cloud-related offerings, of course, should know better, but many of them skew the definition of Cloud to favor their offerings, a practice the industry calls Cloudwashing. It’s much easier to change the marketing than to change the product, after all, especially when Cloud Computing often requires a complete rethink of what it means to build, sell, and deliver software to customers.

But sometimes a vendor takes Cloudwashing to such an extreme that they end up looking silly. Case in point: Citrix Systems, who recently hired Wakefield Research to survey ordinary Americans on their understanding of the Cloud. The problem? Citrix completely misunderstands what Cloud computing is, at least according to the press release about the survey.

The survey’s definition of Cloud Computing is “a computer network to store, access and share data from Internet-connected devices.” Sorry, wrong! If anything, that phrase is a definition of the Internet itself, and a circular one at that. And since that definition is the basis of the survey, its entire methodology as well as its conclusions are worse than worthless, since they will further deepen the confusion over the Cloud.

Let’s look at the survey’s main conclusion, according to the release: “Ninety-five percent of those claiming they never use the cloud actually do so via online banking and shopping, social networking, and storing photos and music.” One of these things doesn’t belong. Can you spot it? Online banking. Banks are notoriously reluctant to move their online banking to the Cloud. If you bank online, there’s a very good chance you’re not using Cloud Computing for that capability.

The other services are all in some degree Cloud-based, although we still have a ways to go before all online shopping leverages the Cloud — but that result only deepens the confusion over what Cloud Computing really is. If you were confused about the Cloud and read this release, you’d only end up more confused. My advice? Read and reread the NIST definition, and if you have any questions, don’t ask a vendor.

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