Get Out Of The Way Of Progress

Thoughts on the Term "Cloud" & All its Assumed Meanings

On September 15th, I made the following rash statement on Twitter:

mthiele10Mark Thiele

We have to move past selling Cloud. Cloud is purely an infrastructure evolution, we now have to sell "What can we do differently or better"

Following are some of the back and forth tweets related to the above:

jayfry3Jay Fry

PRT @mthiele10: We have to move past selling Cloud...purely an infrastructure evolution..."What can we do differently/better" [Yep: a biz Q]


"@mthiele10 I think sales people should just say that cloud is a state of mind. #GroovyBaby" <+1


 @mthiele10 That may be the best articulation I've seen of what's been bugging me about "cloud conversations of late"


@mthiele10 @jamesurquhart Been saying that from the start. Terms and products are irrelevant - solving problems is key.

The above tweets are just a few samples of what was a lively and positive conversation, with the main point being that some of the folks who have the most to gain from using the term "Cloud" already feel that too many of us are using it inappropriately.

The point of my Tweet was to get people thinking about business opportunity and less about marketing terms or buzz words. As a long time IT infrastructure person I see much to get excited about in infrastructure solutions dressed as "cloud". However, I've been excited in the past about any or all of the following changes:

-        Client-Server computing

-        Phone based email

-        1U servers

-        Blade Servers

-        Virtualization

-        NAS vs. SAN

-        IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, etc.

Did any of the above solutions prior to the last bullet significantly change business? Did you see advertisements about how 1U servers would make your IT and business more agile? You might have, but generally speaking they were sold as infrastructure tools that could help you be more valuable or cost effective for your customer. Solutions that are parading as "game changers" and "converged infrastructure for a more agile business" or "Cloud, it will make you thinner" (OK, I made that up, but you get the message), are nothing more than an evolutionary step in the way that IT infrastructure is being made available for what's actually important and that's the delivery of applications your customers use.

Don't get me wrong, I love the promise of more flexible infrastructure: AKA Cloud

As a long time infrastructure guy I always dreamed of a day when the network or the data center was the center of attention (be careful what you wish for). Now that the day has arrived, I feel that I wanted the wrong thing for the right reasons. The average infrastructure person is an underdog, they work hard shoveling coal into the fire, and are only noticed when the boiler blows. Unfortunately, that is how it will likely remain, IT infrastructure staff are likely doomed to being the unsung heroes of IT, but at least now they have new and improved toys.

Cloud is the "new and improved toy" that can be used in a myriad of ways to help address long standing IT flexibility and usability concerns. With the right deployments you can reduce the risk of long term vendor lock-in or deliver an application to a remote location in a matter of minutes or hours. Most importantly by implementing the best possible infrastructure solution you're getting out of the way of progress.  I hope that doesn't sound too cold hearted, but it is the truth. No business that isn't in the business of infrastructure ever won a competitive battle or moved a market by buying a fast server, a larger disk array or a fatter network pipe. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that the appropriate use of infrastructure in combination with smart applications can really be a "difference maker" for your company's performance.

So the next time someone tries to sell you "converged infrastructure" or "Cloud", ask them first which of your current business problems or opportunities their solution is ready to fix. If they can answer that question successfully, then you've got something to discuss! Good luck and keep shoveling that coal, someone's got to keep the train moving.

Previous Related Blogs:

Private Cloud - Real or Fantasy

Cloud Project Planning

The Hidden Costs and Risks of Cloud & how do I mitigate them

Discerning Freedom and Servitude in the growing cloud management space

Other Blog articles:



Seven elements of Cloud Computing's value


A great post. It's a bit depressing that you (and I, and others) have to keep saying this stuff, though... you'd think we would have moved past the "gee, look, it's shiny" phase by now.

Back in 2009 I wrote a blog post called "Seven elements of Cloud Computing's value" (see here) and although I might change the model I highlighted a little, I think it basically still stands. I think the post is still the most popular ever on our blog... but in a way I wish it wasn't!

Please keep up the excellent posts!

Neil Ward-Dutton, Research Director, MWD Advisors

Indeed - Running The Business Is Important


I agree with you that making business run better is much of the promise of "cloud".  I found an article about Subway's decision to use a cloud service rather than their own in-house hosting of application a good example of "cloud thinking".

It's an interesting object lesson in running the business better rather than making the cost of infrastructure less.


Brook Reams-Brocade Communications.