“Cloud-Based” Becoming a Meaningless Cliché

Is "Cloud Based" just hype?
Is "Cloud Based" just hype?

Does the widely-used adjective “cloud-based” mean anything?   Do a search for the phrase and how it is used and you’ll discover it applied to just about any web-delivered service that is expected to be online and available. “Cloud-based” has largely become used as a replacement for “online” or “web-based”.

Technologists and most management professionals understand that “cloud” usually refers to hosting your IT infrastructure on shared infrastructure. But for most services, does an end user even care whether the service is delivered via a private data center, through a data center in a multi-tenant colocation environment, or takes place on infrastructure owned and operated by a public cloud provider?

If in a private data center, does it matter to the end user whether it is a virtualized “private cloud” dedicated to a specific purpose, or if it is hosted on more traditional servers?

The answers to those questions depend on a number of different factors.

If a company is providing an application that needs to serve a lot of users in a lot of far flung locales, the utilization of a public cloud provider may truly be an advantage. A retailer that does huge business around Christmas, or is otherwise seasonal in nature, the scalability of public cloud might be advisable.

But in many instances, “cloud-based” appears to be little more than marketing fluff for services that can be delivered via private infrastructure just as effectively as through AWS or the Microsoft Cloud. Many savvy companies actually have found their way back from the cloud, improving the service delivery and economics for themselves and their customers on infrastructure that the vendor owns and operates.

With a little knowledge of IT infrastructure, cloud computing, and data centers, the following questions may be worth asking to cut to the chase and see if a company, and the organization’s representatives, has the technological knowledge you’d prefer in a vendor:

  • Why is the fact that you’re “cloud-based” important to the service you offer?
  • Why is using the cloud better for you than traditional or hybrid infrastructure?
  • When you say cloud-based, are you with a public cloud provider or are you operating a private cloud that you control?
  • Public cloud providers are not immune to service interruptions, how does being in the cloud enhance your reliability?
  • How much visibility can I, as a customer, have into the security protocols for the infrastructure that has to keep my customer information protected and my organization in compliance with industry and government standards?
  • Are your applications specifically architected to be optimized in cloud environments, or have they been migrated there from more traditional infrastructure?
  • A number of companies are bringing their applications back from the cloud into more traditional data center environments, or hosting on their own virtual servers. Why are you committed to the public cloud?

Maybe the answers will show that describing a service, a product, or an entire company has a reason for being “cloud-based”. On the other hand, there’s a chance that they’re simply blowing smoke with the description and you may wish to take a hard look at the other claims they’re making before you trust them with your business.