Yesterday, under the shadows of OSCON 2012, Portland based cloud cost management company Cloudability ran a future of cloud fireside chat in which myself and fellow CloudAve blogger and Analyst Ben Kepes participated. The chat was moderated by TechCrunch blogger Alex Williams. We discussed various topics and where the industry is heading. During our discussion, we talked about Alex’s favorite topic, Cloud washing. He asked me why I don’t think IBM’s PureApplication Systems as Cloud (PaaS). I sort of explained my rationale for it and thought it is worth a quick post. Before I address the topic, let me make two points clear. This is not about IBM alone. This applies equally to any vendor who pushes expensive hardware as cloud. Also, I am not against private clouds per se. I see it as a short term transitionary solution for enterprises to move most of their workloads to public clouds.
There are two issues to be considered here:
- Is it necessary to use commodity servers for something to be called as cloud?
- Can we call hardware bundled with other pieces that constitute cloud fabric as cloud?
To address the first point, I am ok if your cloud runs on top of mainframes. Even though I see commodity servers as the optimal way to build the cloud, I really don’t care if the cloud is built on top of mainframes. As far as I am concerned, the cloud is about abstracting away the underlying hardware and other infrastructure components. If a service provider can effectively compete with the likes of Amazon with mainframes underneath their cloud, there is no reason to dismiss their cloud strategy. Big iron underneath the cloud doesn’t bother me because as far as I am concerned, cloud ends with the abstraction layer above the hardware. I am very comfortable making this argument because I am pretty confident that market forces will eventually favor commodity clouds.
Having said that I am against bundling hardware with software layer and call it a cloud for the same reason I articulated in the previous paragraph. If cloud is about abstracting away all the hardware complexities underneath, I shouldn’t be forced to buy a specific hardware to run the cloud software. Well, you can always make a point that these hardware+software solution will help organizations build clouds. Yes, they do but their offerings by itself is not cloud. Period. Nope, I am not arguing that these solutions should not exist in the market. I believe in free markets and strongly feel that the end customers should have choice. Even though I support such solutions to exist in the market, I take offense to selling these solutions as cloud. Any talk about cloud starts above the hardware and bringing hardware into the equation is plain marketing. Or, using Alex’s language, it is pure cloud washing.
Disclosure: IBM is a client