When cloud isn’t cloud

“Your service is entirely cloud-based, right?”

“Yep. Absolutely.”

“So there’s no on-premise hardware? Nothing we have to build, deploy, or manage?”


I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had like this with OEMs and VARs selling cloud products that are only “cloud” in the loosest sense.  When they say “cloud” what they really mean is “hosted” or, in select instances – “hybrid”, either of which are OK, if that’s what you want.

Past the normal software connectors and API integrations you might expect in a cloud product, they have requirements for servers, internal network changes, and myriad other infrastructure items and config changes.

“You need to deploy this SSL certificate to every device.”

“You need to stand up 10 servers attached to your SAN.”

“You need to add these 35 records to your internal DNS.”

“Everyone needs to run IE 8 with Flash version 7 and JRE 2.”

“It only works on Windows… and Blackberry.”

Nope. Not gonna do it. You can take your product and go die in a fire.

Hybrid-cloud – I can get behind. There are some technologies and use-cases that require an on-premise component for at least a portion of their functionality. The client side of things, though, is where most integrators, OEMs, and VARs seem to fall off the rails entirely.

A big part of cloud is providing access to any device, anywhere – without reliance on a very narrow infrastructure config. If your product only works with one browser, requires five plugins, and four internal DNS records – it’s not cloud, but it is terrible. Before you say your service is a cloud service, be sure you know what that means.

Caveat emptor

If you’re on the buying side, it’s important to dive in to product functionality as much as you can before buying, especially if you’re trying to move away from on-prem and toward cloud and/or BYOD.

You need to go past asking “Does your product do X?” and ask “How does your product do X and what does it require to do that?” so you can gain the full picture of what you’re in for.

I’m not cynical enough to think that everyone selling a non-cloud “Cloud” product is trying to pull one over on their customers. In most cases, I think they’re just playing catch-up.

It’s surprising how common it is to find companies selling non-cloud “cloud” products and also doing something silly like selling white-box PCs. They seem to misunderstand scale, commodity, and technology agnosticism across a broad spectrum.

As much as you want to pat their salespeople on the head and say “Awww…who’s a big boy? You’re a big boy!”, it’s better to walk the other way.