I was reminded last week why I hate exhibitions. CloudExpo 2013 is typical of the breed, located in London Olympia which is the worst place to get to from, well, anywhere else in London.
Inside, it’s full of vendors trying to give away ever-more creative (or desperate) freebies to delegates walking briskly past on their way to the lectures. “Can I interest you in a jelly bean, sir?” “Exchange your business card for a chance to win an iPad, sir?” They were giving away free umbrellas on Stand 561. For rain clouds, presumably.
Bearing in mind that ‘The Cloud’ isn’t actually a thing, more a procurement and provisioning strategy, vendors speak in revered terms about its mythical power to change the world. Cloud is, I was assured, the thing to solve all business problems, cut costs to the bone and reduce our carbon footprint too.
Such is the marketing hype.
The first thing I noticed at the Expo was how unimaginative Cloud vendors are. Differentiation is not a concept they seem to grasp: witness the plethora of companies and products named Cloud. It reminds me of the dotcom boom when every company had the prefix e- stapled to the beginning of their name. Just to confirm that, yes, we’re on that particular bandwagon too.
This me-too company/product/brand nomenclature reflects the lack of differentiation in the solutions on offer. There is a good reason for this: many of the offerings are repackaged grouping of the same physical assets. No-one offers an entire cloud infrastructure from cables in the ground to apps on the desktop. It’s all rented from each other. Which is nice, as it demonstrates that vendors are using the ‘xyz_as_a_service’ model themselves.
The trouble is that this reuse and repackaging erodes competitive advantage. I’d hate to be a mid-tier player in the Cloud market right now: there’s a mad scramble for market share, to gain critical mass before the inevitable consolidate occurs. Unlike the dotcom boom, I doubt there will be many millionaires made in the Cloud boom.
Cloud vendors really do need to worry about this lack of differentiation. There is only one route to follow in a market where differentiation declines, which is that of the low cost provider. Not a fun destination.
One final thought: how long do you think it will be before the ‘Cloud’ tag is dropped, along with the suffix ‘as_a_service’. I think Cloud terminology has two years to run, before we start talking again simply about software and infrastructure, and service, regardless of how it’s bought.
Post by Duncan Brown