Tuesday, 11 June 2019 10:11

Five easy ways to spot cloud washing in the load balancer

By George Tsoukas

SPONSORED Guest Opinion by George Tsoukas, Avi Networks*

Over the past decade, public cloud has gone from a fringe use case for start-ups to a mainstream choice for CIOs worldwide.

This trend has gained so much momentum in the past two years that vendors who built their legacy in the data centre are forced to acknowledge it. So here’s a prediction: there is going to be a LOT of ‘cloud washing’.

First, let’s define cloud washing. In cloud washing, a company refreshes its product simply by adding the word ‘cloud’ to the name. This is a ploy to cover up a product’s shortcomings with marketing fluff.

Consider an example: an old school appliance vendor, say a load balancer vendor, which probably wrote its software in the late 90s to early 2000s, has been adding features to this appliance for the past decade or two.

When virtualisation became prevalent in the data centre, such vendors emulated their hardware in a virtual machine and called it ‘Virtual Edition’. Given this process, the strategy for cloud becomes: ‘Let’s get a virtual version of our product so it works in the cloud and call it ‘Cloud Edition’.

Today a cloud washed solution would be like bringing a hardware appliance to the cloud, which doesn’t have cloud-like functionality or capabilities — something few users would consider satisfactory. To help with identifying better technology, here are five ways to spot cloud washing in the wild. Beware of ‘cloud edition’ appliances that:

  • Require additional products. The cloud is supposed to reduce complexity, not increase it. IT doesn’t want to buy separate software packages for the load balancer, the controller, or analytics.
  • Require a hardware purchase. Nothing screams ‘legacy’ like hardware.
  • Require manual provisioning/configuration. This is the cloud we’re talking about! Writing custom scripts per-app is so 2010 - a solution has to be turnkey.
  • Unable to autoscale: Organisations need services in the cloud to function like the cloud. If the cloud infrastructure is autoscaling and application services aren't, this presents a serious problem.
  • Have complex pricing. The cloud has consumption-based pricing, so be highly suspicious of ‘cloud edition’ appliances that don’t offer in this feature.
  • Don’t offer intelligence. Since IT is no longer managing the infrastructure, it’s even more important to have application analytics that provide details on applications and end-users. Without it, an organisation is flying blind, which is never a good idea.

Make no mistake, there will be lots of fanfare from the vendors touting their new wares, but don’t be fooled by cloud washing. A cloud washed appliance, like a load balancer or WAF, cannot compete on price, performance, or functionality with a cloud native solution. Expectations for cloud environments can be realised only when organisations are cautious about what technologies they bring to support their applications in the cloud.

* George Tsoukas on behalf of Avi Networks

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