Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, but “Cloudwashing” Will Never Hurt You

One of my favorite shows from the ’80s, Greatest American Hero, featured an FBI agent (Robert Culp) who was addicted to the word “scenario.” It was a running joke; in one episode, he used it constantly and fell asleep when he heard it, due to a post-hypnotic suggestion.

Lots of other words and phrases have gone through a hype cycle and degenerated into cliché: “paradigm shift,” “thinking out of the box,” “synergy,” “mindshare,” and “incentivize” come to mind.

If you read Dilbert, you know that “cloud” is one of those overused words in tech circles. Every PHB (pointy haired boss) is looking for a way to slap that label on their product and claim innovation. This has caused a cynical backlash, in which “real” cloud products are identified/anointed by “experts,” and pretenders are accused of “cloudwashing.”

I think it’s all silly.

Deciding whether a product has been cloudwashed isn’t about comparing its feature list to some definition that a pundit likes. It’s about whether the product helps IT people in the trenches achieve the real rubber-meets-the-road business goals that they wrestle with every day. And by that test, a lot of products with all the right talking points are miserable failures, while other products with a more modest resume are actually stellar. It all comes down to whether “cloud” products drive out complexity using policy, smart design, and other components of cloudthink — or whether they expect admins to do all the heavy lifting.

Adaptive’s Moab Cloud Suite has a great list of features, but I’ve been trying to advocate this more pragmatic mindset on our development team lately, because I believe in the long term the winners will be those that embrace outcome-based measures of cloudiness.

Like the old nursery rhyme suggests, let’s ignore the name-calling and get down to the business of making the computing landscape a better place.

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