How to Catch ERP Software Companies Faking It with Cloudwashing

March 17, 2015
Many enterprise software vendors claim to have cloud-based applications when in fact they have none. Define the term cloudwashing. Understand the definition and benefits of true cloud computing.

Many enterprise software companies are deliberately misleading prospects and customers, using cloudwashing to make quick sales without doing the hard work of cloud application development. It’s time to look beyond the veneer of what many software companies claim are cloud-based applications and reveal the truth. That’s the goal of this white paper, to provide ten ways to spot software companies who are practicing cloudwashing.

Legacy ERP vendors with stalled sales cycles for their existing applications, often decades old, are turning to cloudwashing with an intensity that rivals an Olympic sport. The performance paradox of claiming to have cloud-based enterprise applications now, yet lacking the discipline, process and focus to create new applications isn’t lost on anyone.

Defining Cloudwashing

Cloudwashing is claiming that applications and platforms are cloud-enabled and fully cloud-compliant when they are not. There are vendors claiming their entire server architectures are cloud compliant, which is an oxymoron. True cloud-based applications are hardware agnostic and elastically scale to application resource needs.

The tell-tale signs of a cloud-washed application include long lists of server prerequisites, extensive use of remote application software to replicate what a true cloud platform does, and incredibly complex configuration requirements for enabling networked applications. Enterprise applications delivered in multiple terminal emulation windows is another sure sign of cloudwashing. One of the best examples of cloudwashing is selling a large, complex server for over $1M, telling customers they need it to run their own cloud. Vendors looking to capitalize on the confusion buyers have about what cloud-based applications and platforms are and aren’t use these selling strategies to sell outmoded applications. Having a very clear definition of just what cloud computing is needs to anchor any discussion of cloudwashing.

Defining Cloud Computing and True Cloud Applications

Gartner defines cloud computing as a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service using Internet technologies. There are as many definitions of cloud applications and platforms as there are on-premise enterprise software vendors. Fortunately the National Institute of Standards (NIST) has defined cloud computing in the paper National Institute of Standards and Technology Definition of Cloud Computing.

The NIST’s definition is the most unbiased and pervasively used. The five essential characteristics of cloud computing applications and platforms according to this standard’s organization include:

On-demand self-service. The ability to unilaterally provide diverse, highly scalable computing resources including network bandwidth, network storage, server time, network capabilities and many other services all without human intervention is the essence of on-demand self-service. Inherent in this definition of on-demand self-service is the innate ability of an application to scale in real time based on the resource needs of a given application instantly.

Broad network access. Client and platform independence that includes Application Programmer Interface (API) support for a very broad, heterogeneous base of thin, thick, and mobile clients. True cloud applications and platforms can scale across any mobile, handheld or desktop device with no degradation in functionality, user experience or performance. The greater the breadth and depth of mobile device support, the truer the cloud platform is. Without support for mobile devices and little if any APIU support for intensive transaction Web Services down to the device level, nearly all ERP vendors practicing cloudwashing today are faking it where it matters most: delivering a truly excellent user experience regardless of device.

Resource pooling. Support for multi-tenancy, and real time scalability of resources to meet the unique computing workload requirements of each specific application and platform. True cloud platforms are built on a true multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. Common resources that are pooled include storage, processing, memory, and network

Rapid elasticity. One of the most difficult aspects of a cloud computing architecture is the ability to elastically provision and release resources to support varying application requirements. Best-in-class cloud platforms have the ability to scale automatically, either upward or downward, based on application demand with application users not experiencing any degradation in performance. Cloud washed applications will often crash when deployed in a hosted mode if the resource workloads become too great over time.

Measured service. True cloud platforms can automatically control and optimize resources and services using a metering capability that is designed into the core areas of the platform. It is common to find dashboards that report back storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts’ performance and status in real time. Having measured services at the platform level provides a much greater level of accountability over cloud application and platform performance.

While there many more definitions of what cloud computing is, the NIST framework provides the most impartial, clear set of benchmarks. With these benchmarks in mind, here are the ten ways enterprise software vendors cloud wash their applications.

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