Cloud-Washing – Do Not Get Fooled
Cloud-washing is a term used for the act of labeling or advertising a service as a cloud computing service even when it truly isn’t one. This is nothing new, especially not around the internet. It’s the same as those ordinary companies during the early boom of the internet that attached the word “web” to their marketing campaigns and spontaneously became dot-com players. Now it’s happening again as many web service companies are erasing the word “web” and replacing it with “cloud”. They are making use of the people’s inability to distinguish real cloud computing to what looks like cloud computing, mainly due to the vagueness and complexity of cloud computing’s definition.
Because of cloud computing’s definition it can be argued that any web-based subscription site is a basic example of SaaS. But what really matters is not the method of delivery or the pricing scheme but the value proposition being offered by the service which makes it a true cloud computing service or a cloud-washed one. A pay-per-use model does not mean that a vendor’s supposedly SaaS offering is actual cloud computing. This is because a subscription model does not guarantee elasticity and automated recovery, two very important cloud computing characteristics. Some vendors might advertise that they have a cloud service which may suggest that they offer elasticity and automated recovery even when they don’t. Do not get fooled.
But there are different types of elasticity. A vendor may claim they offer it, but you have to be sure how elastic their service can get. For example, they may be referring to elasticity in their virtualization layer. So for an IaaS vendor, they can provision you VMs with a gigabyte of memory and promise that they can provide you more if you need it. But this is somewhat limited depending on the availability and usage among all of the users after all the hardware resource is finite. This is just limited elasticity. But in order to provide real cloud elasticity, that sense of infinite resource, a vendor must do more. The vendor must be able to provision and “deprovision” instances quickly and automatically, whatever resource you need be it in the form of RAM, CPU, storage, or VMs. These resources are taken from other subscribers who may not be using it at the moment. This cloud elasticity is horizontal and may be straightforward for IaaS vendors, but we cannot say the same for SaaS and PaaS. Cloud elasticity would be somewhat problematic for them. For example if a software instance demands 24/7 constant connection, then it cannot be deprovisioned, making it inherently partition intolerant, and so cloud elasticity cannot be achieved through this method.
It is not that easy to determine whether your provider is offering the full cloud experience or not and in most cases the providers themselves may not realize that what they are offering is not true cloud computing, but something very close. But for some, that is quite enough to satisfy their needs.
By Abdul Salam
He has recently co-authored: Deploying and Managing a Cloud Infrastructure: Real-World Skills for the CompTIA Cloud+ Certification (Wiley).