Cloudwashing: Do your execs recognize it when they see it?

A recent Dilbert comic strip captured the attention of a lot of IT pros for poking fun at “cloudwashing” and those who get suckered in by the hype surrounding anything labeled “Cloud.” Reading the strip, you might wonder: Do your execs know how to spot a cloudwasher in action? 

Perhaps you should show them the cartoon as an example.

In the comic strip, Dilbert’s boss tells him to “cloudwash” their software by moving some of its functions to the Internet, but to call the Internet the Cloud. Because, according to his logic, no one will take them seriously if they aren’t doing anything in the Cloud. Never mind they’re making technology decisions based on jargon, Dilbert points out.

And that’s precisely the problem with cloudwashing. Cloudwashing is the practice of rebranding an existing Internet-based product or service by adding the word “cloud” to its name. Vendors hoping to capitalize on the buzz and excitement generated by the Cloud are quick to slap the “Cloud” label on their offerings, even if they don’t quite meet the criteria.

TechTarget defines a true cloud service as having:

  • User self-provisioning
  • Pay-per-use billing
  • A multi-tenant architecture
  • A virtualized infrastructure, and
  • Linear scalability.

Cloudwashing has been an issue since the early days of cloud computing. Companies getting into the business took advantage of the fact that cloud computing was constantly evolving and best practices were still being worked out, which made it easy for them to sell anything with the word “Cloud” in its name.

Among the worst offenders? Oracle, Microsoft and In fact, Oracle’s Larry Ellison famously commented, “…we’ve redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do.”

Now, cloud computing is much more clearly defined. The technology has been around long enough that customers aren’t as easily fooled into ponying up big bucks for something that doesn’t really add any value to their operations.

One strategy many are using is to thoroughly vet cloud vendors before signing on the dotted line. Read our 21 point check list for moving to the Cloud for a list of questions to ask cloud vendors.

And lastly, it’s a good idea to sit down with the people making financial decisions to make sure they understand what a true cloud service is before a salesperson gets a hold of them.