Cloud hype - does the stream of buzzwords harm the industry?

Sticky notes

Cloud computing has a lot of hype, jargon and confusion surrounding it. There, we’ve said it, do you feel better?

The situation is getting better and the mists are clearing, but the long-term effect on the users is that things are still pretty obfuscated - sorry, I mean complicated and confused.

Clarity is coming through and excellent things are happening like the emergence of application-specific cloud offerings tuned to transaction types, job function type and vertical industry type. But don’t breathe easy yet - one company issued a press release this week talking about how “software fat” in the cloud leads to lack of actionable analytics in the boardroom.

There’s no need to sully ourselves by naming the firm in question (clue: capital of New Hampshire and well known delta-winged plane operated by BA and Air France), but this type of “make up a term and see if it sticks” marketing is one of the reasons why cloud was made so confusing in the first place.

Former Intel CEO Andy Grove wrote a fantastic management IT book entitled ‘Only The Paranoid Survive’ where he coined the term ‘Strategic Inflexion Point’ to explain when a major market and/or manufacturing shift was about to happen in the tech industry. Intel’s Grove was the last man to innocently use the expression: “this is what I like to call”, without it being a PR-spun contrivance designed to try gain credit for stamping another de facto tech term into the public lingua franca.

One journalist (who shall also remain unnamed) even tried to twist the definition of big data and call it “crunchy data” instead. The thinking behind this is that the most valuable aspect of data is where small changes to its values have the biggest ‘crunch’ effects. Once again, does this help the users by providing tangential thought angles, or does it merely confuse?

IT analyst Simon Robinson wrote recently that big data (and hence, by default, use of cloud) was still “low and mostly experimental” in 2013. But he also noted that “big data startups continue to attract substantial levels of funding” and this will only serve to fuel the fires of hype.

Should we then brace ourselves for the cloud hype bubble to burst in a dot com bubble style? Perhaps we are our own worst enemy and it is the very nomenclature of cloud that has made it hard for users to comprehend from the start.

Instead of calling it a hypervisor, why didn’t we stick to calling it “a software program designed to be installed on datacentres servers to act as a virtual machine manager to enable multiple operating systems to work on a single piece of hardware”, or at least keep that explanation close by for users that want it.

How can we expect users to settle with cloud when one well know analyst house beginning with the letter G (clue: rhymes with ‘partner’) runs an industry round up called the annual Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing? In fairness, this scale is meant to analyse which cloud technologies are emerging and track their acceptance in the mainstream to increase user awareness of what to implement.

But there’s no getting away from it -- it’s called a Hype Cycle (CAPS intended to denote branded name). So as cloud technologies are moved along this industry analysis scale does that mean that early adopters should feel comfortable with plucking emerging technologies out of what is labelled as the ‘Trough of Disillusionment Zone” as they head into the “Slope of Enlightenment” and onward into the “Plateau of Productivity”?

The answer is no, don’t get too comfortable and cloud computing needs its own plain English campaign in many ways. Don’t rest too easy when vendors tell you that “cloud computing is about to become a commodity just like electricity” either. If we are indeed on the cusp of simply accepting cloud a being the same as any other means of computing, then the term cloud itself won’t be going away overnight. In the meantime, let’s cut the hype and clear things up for the users. Remember the users? Wasn’t it all about the users in the first place?