There has been tremendous growth in the cloud computing space, but that growth seems be in the shadows of a much larger marketing machine that is currently pushing the message of the cloud to the masses. Have we gotten to the point where marketing overload has taken over? Does this end up confusing the average non-technical person regarding what the cloud really is and what it really does?

A few years back, when we were just starting to hear about the cloud via marketing efforts, I thought those efforts were a great thing. When I attempted to explain what I do for a living to my non-technical friends and family, I would mention that I work with cloud computing systems, and they would respond, “Wow, I have heard about that.” Even though for the most part they had no idea what a cloud was, I could at least start a conversation without immediately seeing their eyes glaze over from complete lack of understanding. Just knowing that they had at least heard of the cloud, though their concept might be limited to knowing they could open pictures and music on all their devices, was a good step forward.

Fast forward to the present time, and a quick Google search for cloud computing news gave me about 148,000,000 results (0.46 seconds). Cloud computing has clearly established itself as a mainstream media topic that is widely discussed, reported on, and researched each and every day. However, even with all the news stories and posts available on the Internet, I still find that a number of non-technical people I talk to still do not have a basic understanding of the cloud.

The initial difficulties surrounding healthcare.gov, the Affordable Care Act website, at least gave a glimpse of how massively complex the cloud computing environment can get, especially for something as involved and with as many moving parts as healthcare.gov has. However, shortly after the launch, the problems were presented as simply a lack of resources available to the cloud infrastructure. It seems some people believe that just adding resources or servers to the environment will resolve most issues.

Can this misunderstanding and obvious miscommunication be blamed, at least in part, on the marketing machines of different companies and on the definitions and talking points that have been used in marketing those companies’ services and offerings? My young son, as an example, seems to think that what he sees and hears on the TV and radio might be all the information he needs to evaluate a product or service—that further research is not important. He saw “this” on television, and it looked really cool. Such is the power of the marketing machine. If this machine can have this kind of effect on my preteen, then I have to conclude that the effect continues to work with adults as well, to a degree. This is what companies come to expect from their marketing departments. Although numerous benefits from can be achieved from services in the cloud, I have to wonder how the number of people who have flocked to the cloud because they have a“need” induced by marketing compares to the number that have come to the cloud with a specific use-case or problem they are looking to resolve? In case you’re not quite following my thoughts, let me present that another way. I wonder how many people and companies come to a cloud company to shop for products and services they think they might need because they have heard that the cloud is the future, and they feel they need to jump on the bandwagon to remain competitive?

How many come to the cloud with specific items they need a solution for and not because the cloud is cool and they know they can find something that can benefit themselves or their company?

Maybe I am giving too much credit to the marketing department, or perhaps there are so many benefits that can be achieved in the cloud that it is worth doing some window shopping, because you never know what you might find. Most likely it is a mixture of both. However, in an attempt to continue to push different messages, I have found a recent post that reports IBM has scored a new patent to go green in the datacenter by dynamically finding and moving resources to the equipment that uses the least amount of electricity.

In sum, most people are not going to have any understanding of the concept of dynamic resources scheduling to devices with the lowest power requirements; all they are going to take away from this is that IBM has a green datacenter. Is marketing the elephant in the room that brings understanding about the technology companies are marketing, or is it just clouding the waters and helping to confuse the consumer? Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of marketing in the corporate world, and I know success can depend on it. However, I have a better respect for marketing teams when they are working to help define technology for the masses. I seem to start losing my respect when it has gotten to the point where marketing must find a niche or make its own definitions with talking points in order to show how great a product or service is. Business is a dog eat dog world, and marketing is an unmistakable part of that world, but in my humble opinion it gets to a point where it loses some of value of its message. Maybe it is just me. Or then again, maybe not.

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Steve Beaver (158 Posts)

Stephen Beaver is the co-author of VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center and Scripting VMware Power Tools: Automating Virtual Infrastructure Administration as well as being contributing author of Mastering VMware vSphere 4 and How to Cheat at Configuring VMware ESX Server. Stephen is an IT Veteran with over 15 years experience in the industry. Stephen is a moderator on the VMware Communities Forum and was elected vExpert for 2009 and 2010. Stephen can also be seen regularly presenting on different topics at national and international virtualization conferences.

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