When computer vendors encounter a major technology disruption, they respond the same way, with fervent claims that their products are really well suited for the new environment, when of course they are not. The response of storage vendors to the new ground-rules of the Cloud provide a timely illustration of this near-universal phenomenon.
Our Product is Definitely in Fashion
Computers are complicated. Many people have trouble just keeping the buzzwords in mind, much less understanding what, if anything, is behind them -- much less actually understanding things. It's particularly tough when a wave of fashion sweeps the industry, as it so often seems to. Then everyone but everyone immediately claims to be at the forefront of whatever that fashion is.
This was true years ago when the good thing to be in databases was "relational," and suddenly every database vendor revealed that their precious products were, in fact, "relational." At first I laughed. What idiots these marketing people were -- why anyone can tell that C's product wasn't relational when it was built, isn't now, and probably never will be. What a joke!
It turns out the joke was on me. Whatever the buzz-fashion-word of the moment, Industry-standard practice is to claim it. And for most people to accept the claim!
This is a big deal for the established vendors. There is a lot of money riding on maintaining market share as the new trend takes hold. When "relational" becomes the hot thing, and your marketing people are any good at all, then by golly, our database is relational -- because I say it is!
The Cloud -- the Buzz-Fashion-Word of the Moment
Now the Cloud is hot. Surprise, surprise -- everyone's product claims to be "cloud-ready," "Cloud-optimized" or whatever it is they think you want to hear.
and everyone else.
Inside the Marketing Department
Something like the following dialog probably happens inside each major vendor.
Bright New Kid: "I'm having real trouble producing that marketing piece about our products for the Cloud. I've read a lot about Cloud, and we just don't fit. I don't know what to do!"
Seasoned Veteran: "You're making it too hard. We make storage, right? Our storage is great, right? Cloud needs storage, just like everything else, right? So our storage is ideal for the Cloud. That's it!"
Bright New Kid: "I'm not so sure --"
Seasoned Veteran: "You're over-thinking it, kid. Our storage is great, so it's great for Cloud. Just get over yourself and write it."
What's Different about the Cloud?
There is no cloud industry association to certify what the criteria are for cloud appropriate. This is just as well, because the cloud is just another name for something we already do -- run data centers.
But the reality is that things are different in the cloud.
The bottom line is simple -- it's the bottom line! Literally! Meaning, the cloud is all about making things faster to implement and change; better performing and more responsive; and less expensive. I make no secret of my preference here. But the point and my analysis would be the same even if I had no horse in the race. It's not about feature X or service Y, all of which are irrelevant or migrating up the stack in Cloud applications. It's about the bottom line, not just purchase price, but TCO.
The vast majority of data centers have been run essentially without competition. The people who pay the bills haven't been able to choose. It's the in-house data center or nothing.
With the Cloud, suddenly there's competition. Buyers compare on price and quality -- and can even switch if the promises prove to be hollow ones! So things are different in the Cloud. The arm-waving is replaced by the simple measures of capacity, performance, energy and space utilization, management costs, and maintenance.