Dogbert Translates Cloud-Consultanese

Check out today’s Dilbert strip. With the help of Dogbert and the Pointy Haired Boss, Scott Adams cuts right to the heart of the cloud craziness that has overtaken us.

Simply put:

Dogbert (the consultant)   … Blah Blah Cloud. Blah Blah Cloud. …
Pointy-Haired Boss   It’s as if you’re a technologist and a philosopher all in one!
Dogbert (the consultant)   Blah Blah Platform.

That’s exactly what I hear when people start blabbing about “The Cloud”. That’s exactly what any smart technology person hears when people start blabbing about the cloud. And I say this with confidence because even Larry doesn’t know what the cloud is. (What the Hell is Cloud Computing?) He’s one of the smartest technology guys out there … and if he doesn’t know what it is, how can your average technology genius know what it is?

The reality, and please say this aloud three times, is that THERE IS NO CLOUD. (THERE IS NO CLOUD. THERE IS NO CLOUD.) It is a myth perpetuated by sales people and consultants who don’t have anything new to sell, but who know that if they speak the truth, they won’t sell anything … so they go around talking about this mythical magical cloud in a wonderful and confusing manner until they get some of the more dimwitted middle managers with a budget to bite. Then these dimwitted middle managers start perpetuating the myth because they know that if there isn’t enough hype for the technology they just overspent on, they won’t be able to justify their decision, and they’ll look bad. Then everyone else starts playing follow the leader because they don’t realize that it wasn’t Organization X that bought “the cloud”, but some dimwitted middle manager with a silver tongue and a charming smile. And then we have another technology craze around technology that doesn’t exist.

If someone is selling you “cloud technology”, then, if you’re lucky, what they are really selling you is a multi-tenanted hosted SaaS solution with open APIs that allow you to upload, manage, transfer, and download your data at your convenience and to manage how much processing is done when. (Something you should have been able to do since day one, but couldn’t with most multi-tenant SaaS providers that knew that only way to lock you in was to lock-in your data.) That’s it. Multi-tenant SaaS with open APIs that interoperate with an open standard so that you can, if you wish, suck your data out of one “cloud” instance and spit it into another “cloud” instance that uses the same API. If you’re really lucky, it might also have some good graphical management software that you can access through your browser (instead of undocumented command line RPC calls that take expensive coders weeks of time to figure out).

If you’re unlucky, it’s a traditional hosted ASP provider that has implemented the basics of an API that, through a lot of sweat and manpower in the offshore development centres, lets them fake a multi-tenant SaaS solution if you don’t look under the hood (as the best these providers can really pull off is single-tenant SaaS).

And since multi-tenant SaaS and open APIs have been around for years, it’s not new, it’s not magic, and it’s definitely not a new fluffy magic box.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of multi-tenant SaaS (done right) and have promoted such technology for years. But I am sick and tired of this marketing BS. It’s a cloud all right — a cloud of smug produced by conceited marketing types. (If you don’t know what a smug cloud is, Trey Parker and Matt Stone produced a South Park episode that explains it quite well. If you are in the US, you can find video clips on the South Park Studios site. Warning: TV-14 to TV-MA, possibly NSFW)

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