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“Cloud” today is everywhere. But, certain legacy hardware and ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors) often toss around the label “cloud” loosely and incorrectly. This is called “Cloud Washing” (think of whitewashing – i.e. painting something over). In fact, if you search the term, here is what comes up:

“Cloud washing (also spelled cloudwashing) is the purposeful and sometimes deceptive attempt by a vendor to rebrand an old product or service by associating the buzzword “cloud” with it.”

Why do they do it? Moving from a traditional on-your-premise deployment of hardware and/or software requires a pretty disruptive complete rewrite of their business model. The reasons organizations avoid this have been studied many times.

But let’s consider you – the buyer. Are you sure that is what your want? Here is a “sniff test” to consider evaluating an offer from a legacy provider.

  • Pricing – This is actually one of the easiest – on the surface – for your legacy vendor to tackle. Moving to subscription pricing – the pain of seeing those large upfront revenues and juicy maintenance fees go away is tough to take. But, if they don’t, they may loose you, the customer. So, with some financial engineering, it looks to you like they are offering subscription pricing with everything rolled into a monthly per user/unit fee. Still, it does seem kind of high compared to what competitors are offering. Don’t worry – purchasing is sure they will be able to get it down in negotiations.
  • Implementation – Wow! Sure seems like it takes a long time compared to what other cloud competitors said it would and take a look at those “professional services” fees! Didn’t it cost that much the last time you stood it up on your premise?
  • Agility/Flexibility – Your team is really looking forward to being able to dial up and down users/capacity as needed to meet the business needs. This is what the cloud is all about! Or is it? Did you get a simple self-service portal that enables you to dial capacity up and down? Or, do you have to notify your provider of how much extra capacity you want 90 days ahead of time?
  • Service – it is certainly going to feel good to get that monkey of first line service off your back. What a pain that is! But how are they going to do it? Sure, their second and third line folks fixed your glitches in the past but that is not the same as 24/7 dealing with your users. How many folks are in their service center(s)? How do they do 24/7 coverage? What tools are they using to track your issues? Can you get a portal to see their status?
  • Upgrades – Funny, this sounds like the way we used to do it before: fixes and features every 12 to 18 months, parallel builds, a number of test cycles including you doing UAT. Well at least there are no extra fees. Still it seems like a lot of labor on your company’s part.

Let’s look behind the curtain. Your vendor’s cloud solution is just hosting dedicated hardware/software capacity in a data center. Hosting or Managed Services is not Cloud. (Please repeat this often!) They are doing what you did – just not on your premise. But pity your poor vendor. They are stuck. They really do not want to lose you as a customer but they have not done any of the essential elements needed to become a cloud service provider. Guess who pays for that in the end? You.

Consider the implications of your vendor’s choices. Their business model is not set up for the new “as a Service” role you are asking them to play. They don’t have scale, multi-tenancy, self-service, etc. This means much higher costs than true cloud. Since the vendor had to price at least somewhat competitively, margins will be lower on your account. We all know what that means – you are not going to get the resources and attention you need. As a minimum, there is a good chance your customer service will be rocky: outages, unresolved bugs, declining user satisfaction, etc.

What do you want: Cloud or cloud washing? It’s your call…caveat emptor (buyer beware).

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