What Is Cloud Washing?

03.14.19
CloudHealth Tech Staff

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The term cloud washing dates back more than a decade and relates to software vendors giving a cloud computing name to their business-as-usual IT services and virtualization efforts. The practice has been used by some of the biggest vendors in the industry, so how can you be sure you are not being cloud washed?

When Amazon Web Services launched Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) in 2006, “cloud” became a buzzword in the IT industry. Software vendors looking to tap into this new market took advantage of a lack of knowledge about the cloud and relabeled their services as “open cloud” or “cloud enabled”. In some cases, it is not sure whether the vendors themselves knew what the cloud was, as demonstrated by this interview with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison in 2009.

Two years later Ellison and Oracle became the first recipients of the “Washies”—a tongue-in-cheek award presented to the worst cloud washing offenders. The Washies were intended to alert consumers to the practice of giving a cloud computing name to non-cloud computing services, but the gimmick failed to achieve its objective. In 2012, Forrester reported that “70% of what IT administrators claim are private clouds are not”.

According to Forrester, the confusion was attributable to IT administrators in highly-virtualized environments believing their on-premises infrastructures were private clouds. Forrester claimed the confusion was a result of cloud washing, but due to the general lack of knowledge about the cloud at the time, it could have been the case IT administrators assumed their virtualized infrastructures had the characteristics of a private cloud and so called it a private cloud.

What Is Cloud Washing

The practice has been used by some of the biggest vendors in the industry, so how can you be sure you are not being cloud washed?

How to Avoid being Cloud Washed

The practice of cloud washing is not as prevalent as it was five or so years ago, although there are still a few vendors that take an implementation of their existing on-premises software, host it in a virtualized data center and call it cloud software. To help avoid businesses being cloud washed, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) produced a definition of cloud computing (PDF) which includes five essential characteristics:

  • On-demand, automatic self-service without the need for human interaction with the service provider.
  • Broad network access with capabilities accessible by standard mechanisms such as workstations and mobile devices.
  • A pool of resources shared between multiple users dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand.
  • Rapid elasticity so that consumers can provision and release resources in any quantity at any time.
  • The service must be measurable in order that resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported.

NIST´s definition of cloud computing also defines the three primary service models (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS), and four main deployment models (public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud, and community cloud); and, although cloud computing has evolved since publication of the definition, it still remains a valuable asset to help identify cloud washing and prevent confusion about which services are “cloud native” (*), and which are not.

(*) A cloud-native service is one specifically designed for a cloud computing architecture. It has to be capable of running on different operating systems and on different servers in different locations. It also has to be capable of withstanding equipment failure and remapping IP addresses automatically.

Discovering a vendor´s service is not cloud-native may not be a massive problem if you operate an exclusively on-premises infrastructure and have no plans to migrate to the cloud. However, if you do intend to migrate to the cloud or operate a hybrid cloud infrastructure at some point in the future, it is important to be aware of any services in your environment that are not cloud compatible so there is time to modify or replace them.

If you are unsure about the cloud compatibility of any services in your existing infrastructure, do not hesitate to contact us and speak with our cloud migration experts. Our team will be happy to help you plan a successful cloud migration by identifying any challenges and helping you address them. It has been estimated that factors such as cloud washing contribute to 80% of businesses failing to achieve their anticipated cost savings when they migrate to the cloud. Don´t be one of the 80%, speak with CloudHealth today.

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Why Hybrid Cloud Matters—and Why You Can´t Ignore It

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