MythBusters Cloud Edition

CloudFingerThere’s an entertaining series on the Discovery Channel called MythBusters, which “mixes scientific method with gleeful curiosity” to test long-held, but often erroneous, theories.  A typical recent experiment evaluated whether when you “get cold feet,” your feet really get cold.

A number of unsubstantiated myths have likewise been developing around cloud-based communications services (often propagated by vendors with premises-only offers).  In a series of blogs over the next month, I’m going to discuss some of these – and using less exciting methods than available to the Discovery Channel – offer logical arguments that “bust” the myths.

There’s No Difference Between Public and Private Clouds

First, what are the defining attributes of cloud-based computing, both for infrastructure and applications?  Cloud computing implies attributes that typically aren’t provided just because applications are moved to a datacenter, e.g., elastic scalability, payment models linked to usage, and transparent support and maintenance of the software application.

What then does the term private cloud mean?  Microsoft defines it as “a layer of abstraction over your pooled IT resources,” essentially locating applications and services in a company datacenter.  Clearly there are attributes of cloud-based services that aren’t addressed by this definition.  The payment model isn’t linked to usage, as servers and applications are purchased and installed in the datacenter.  There is not elastic scalability as there is only as much capacity as the enterprise has purchased and installed.  Support and maintenance are certainly not transparent as company personnel must purchase and arrange for the installation of software updates as well as perform maintenance as required.

Some purists have gone so far as to say that “private cloud” is purely a marketing term, one that challenges common definitions of cloud computing and creates confusion, used by those with vested interests in existing paradigms.  Whether or not you are a purist, “private cloud” certainly does not include many of the worry-free attributes that CIOs are looking for.

Moving to the Cloud is a Forklift Upgrade

What could be scarier than envisioning walking into the CIO’s office and recommending that everything that was purchased and installed in the contact center be thrown out and replaced with a cloud-based solution?  Vendors trying to fend-off the onslaught of business moving to competitors with cloud-based solutions will use this particular myth to discourage IT decision-makers from considering such a move.

The truth is that cloud-based offerings co-exist with traditionally purchased and deployed applications all the time, in any number of ways.  In the contact center specifically, cloud-based routing solutions can work with an existing workforce management application.  A cloud-based contact center often integrates with an on-premises PBX.  Adding cloud home agents to a traditionally-deployed contact center is a common introduction to cloud-based contact center services.  In summary, moving to the cloud is not incompatible with “sweating existing assets,” and does not imply a forklift upgrade.

Vendors that provide only on-premises solutions are using these and other myths to create “fear, uncertainty and doubt” about moving to the cloud.  In the coming weeks, I’ll take on additional myths.  Stay tuned!

Sheila McGee-Smith, the founder of McGee-Smith Analytics, is a leading communications industry analyst and strategic consultant focused on the contact center and enterprise communications markets.  Her views on the market can also be found in her weekly blog on No Jitter and in real-time on Twitter @mcgeesmith. Read more comments on this entry on the No Jitter blog here.