The hype around cloud computing and misuse of the term by some providers creates confusion in the market and if that continues, research firm Gartner says, it could detract from the technology's many benefits.
In its annual Hype Cycle report, the research firm says the term has become muddled in the market as vendors are "cloudwashing," or looking to tap into the hype of the term by calling themselves a cloud vendor when they are not. Such miscommunication could ultimately detract end users from the efficiencies cloud computing can bring.
"Confusion remains the norm," Gartner's report states about the cloud computing industry. "Many misconceptions exist around potential benefits, pitfalls and, of course, cost savings. Cloud is often part of cost-cutting discussions, even though its ability to cut costs is not a given. There are also many reasons to talk about the capabilities enabled by cloud computing: agility, speed and innovation. These are the potential benefits that can be overlooked if hype fatigue sets in."
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Each year Gartner measures the hype that surrounds various technologies and it says, overall, the buzz around cloud computing has actually leveled off compared to previous years. Businesses are embracing the cloud with varying degrees of success. But cloud computing is a broad term that includes many technologies, and some of those are just reaching the peak of inflated expectations. These include big data, platform as a service (PaaS) and private cloud computing. More traditional forms of cloud computing are already proven in the market and have become mainstream, such as software as a service (SaaS) and virtualization.
John Howie, COO of the Cloud Security Alliance, which works to adopt cloud industry standards, says cloud is much more than a buzzword: It's been a powerful tool for businesses to explore what can be in many circumstances a more efficient computing method. "Amongst consumers, I think there is definitely still some inflated expectations about what the cloud can deliver," he admits. "But providers have become much more realistic and I think have done their best to set appropriate expectations. The people who are really making decisions about implementing cloud at the enterprise IT level have an understanding of what the cloud is and what it can deliver."
It's in the best interest of cloud vendors to accurately portrayal their cloud service, especially for the big-name vendors, such as Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft, Howie says, because they don't want to lose credibility with their customers.
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Still though, because of the interest in the industry there will be "fly-by-night providers," or what Gartner describes as cloudwashing. Gartner specifically references, for example, vendors who offer pay-per-use computing but do not offer the ability to scale up or down resources dynamically could be inaccurately calling themselves cloud vendors. Howie says there are explicit definitions put forth by the National Institutes for Standards in Technology for cloud computing that he says are generally accepted in the industry to define what cloud computing is.
Howie isn't worried about this market confusion leading to hype fatigue though. Instead, he says the biggest problem with cloud computing is many adopters think that it will automatically save them money. It can, he says, but it has to be implemented correctly and for the right reasons -- it's not simply a silver bullet. That misconception about the monetary benefits of the cloud is not the fault of vendors though, he says, and has more to do with the planning and implementation of cloud computing within an organization.
Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.