Pie in the Sky
Hype in the cloud is one thing, but businesses must be increasingly wary of providers offering “fake” cloud services, at least according to an October 29th, 2012 article at Channel Biz. But how do companies tell the difference?
The Marketing Machine
IT admins are well aware of the hyperbole that comes from most cloud providers: that a cloud deployment will significantly slash expenses, that it offers impossible redundancy and that data is never locked in, no matter the circumstance. In reality, most cloud contracts are not so generous and the technology’s “hype cycle” is winding down as consumers become savvier.
A new problem has emerged, however, with providers willing to fast-talk their services and water down the definition of cloud so much it’s virtually indistinguishable from a typical network solution. Consider: eighty-three percent of the 200 IT directors recently surveyed said they were frustrated with cutting though cloud hype. Sixty-seven percent got offers for “clouds” that were actually fixed-term networking solutions in disguise, 40 percent had non-elastic, non-scalable services presented as cloud options and 32 discovered that their supposed wide-open cloud wasn’t even self-service.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) the cloud must be on demand self-service, rapidly scalable, elastic and pay-as-you-go. This definition is widely recognized by businesses but not legally enforceable, leaving the door open for providers who want to trade on cloud hype but not deliver cloud-level service.
So, how does a business avoid poor providers and cloud pie-in-the-sky? First, by keeping NIST’s definition handy and second, by making sure that service, rather than price, takes center stage. Low-cost fixed term services or those that only minimally meet basic cloud functionality may look attractive but will only be so in the short term – once servers start crashing or extra resources aren’t available, any savings quickly evaporate.
It’s also easy to spot a fake under just a bit of pressure. Cloud computing providers worth the cost are not only willing to talk up their product but adapt; just like the technology they sell, flexibility is key to profit. Providers who just want a quick buck aren’t interested in talking about how they can accommodate, and instead spend time crying that their offer is the best deal available.
A recent ComputerWorld article also advises that companies develop a solid request for proposal (RFP) before starting the hunt for providers. Creating a set of questions for cloud companies means a standard set of comparable answers, and can help identify potential weaknesses. For example, it’s highly recommended that companies ask about uptime – does a provider guarantee the “four nines” (99.99%) of uptime, or only 99.9%? How exactly is uptime defined? Does it include server maintenance? And what happens if service-level agreements (SLAs) aren’t fulfilled? How (if it all) are customers compensated?
If it Walks Like a Duck…
Don’t ignore the orange feet and wet feathers. Too often, companies looking for a great cloud computing deal will ignore telltale problem signs from providers, hoping what they lose in performance they’ll make up for in dollar savings. This is rarely the case; with more providers willing to tack on “cloud” to a service description if it nets them a few more contracts, companies must be willing to take a hard line with service offerings, ask hard questions, and walk away if they don’t like answers.