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Cloud Snake Oil

By Steve Jones,

I'm sure that those of you reading this have a variety of opinions about the "cloud". Actually, I'd guess that many of us have different definitions of what the cloud actually means. That's fine, since it's really an amorphous, marketing term that encompasses quite a bit of different technologies, services, and products from many different companies. Some of you might use the cloud, and if you do, then perhaps this will ring true to you.

I was reading Dr. Greg Low's blog, and he asked the question in a post about what a managed service was. In this case, Dr. Low was looking to host his blog on some service, and apparently the definition of a managed service varied from provider to provider. His first provider didn't tell him that backups were being run, with each file being counted against the space that he'd contracted for. When he asked for them to be deleted, he was told it would take a day or two as there wasn't anyone to provide the service.

He continues looking at how other providers define service, which does vary, but the interesting thing to me is that many of these companies aren't really providing management of systems. They're selling you a product, which has some capabilities, but they aren't really managing anything. At least, that is my impression. I know if someone asked me to manage a system, I'd expect to deliver some level of service that would be useful for the client.

In the cloud, it's really a wild west version of computing, where companies want to sell you some service, often touting various management aspects, but they may not necessarily provide the level of service you expect. Cloud vendors, even worse than other computing vendors I've dealt with, want to work at scale, and they want to standardize how things work as much as possible. They don't want to engage in person to person communications if possible. I learned this lesson with Google and their products, few of which had any way for a user to contact a help desk.

Apart from that, what I've seen too often in the cloud is that a company wants to offer some service or capability, but they don't often have the tooling available for end users. This is especially true for new services, where it seems the purchase process works flawlessly, but the configuration or cancellation process doesn't work, or might not even exist. 

The one piece of advice I'd pass on from my cloud experiences is that anyone using services needs to reconcile their bills regularly. We can add resources easily, but removing them is hard, and often a customer service person promising removal doesn't follow through. I've had people in the support centers not even be sure of what resource I was referring to when requesting removal or credit. It's a frustratrating experience that has led me to adopt another habit. I grow resources very slowly, ensuring that I know what the billing is and that I really need the service. That seems like the opposite of what the "cloud" is supposed to offer.

 
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