There are fashions in IT (and don't let anyone tell you us nerds are all perfectly rational actors). That goes double in IT marketing, where metaphors get adopted rapidly and even more rapidly perverted. If you need an example, look no further than the infamous "cloud computing" itself.

There is a new trend I am seeing, of calling cloud "the elephant in the room". I heard this the other day and went off into a little dwam, thinking of the cloud as an actual elephant.

There's an old story about six blind men who are asked by a king to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant's body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

The king explains to them: "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned."

Cloud is much the same. All the rival "cloud experts" are blind men feeling up different parts of the cloud elephant and describing radically different animals. Here is my little taxonomy of the Blind People1 of Cloud.

Public Cloud Purists

There is no such thing as a private cloud!

If I had a euro for every tweet expressing that sentiment… well, I could buy my own Instagram for sure. I have already set out my own view of why they have got hold of the wrong end of the elephant (TL;DR: Must be nice to start from a clean sheet, but most people have datacenters full of legacy, and private cloud at least lets them use what they have more efficiently).


Servers are out, platforms are in! Point and laugh at the server huggers!

Alright, clever-clogs: what do you think your "platforms" run on? Just because you are choosing to run at a far remove from the infrastructure doesn't mean it's not there. SaaS is great for getting stuff done fast with fairly standard business processes, but beyond a certain point you'll need to roll your own.

Cloud FUDdy Duddies

The cloud is insecure by definition! You can't use it for anything! The NSA and the Chinese military are vying with each other and with Romanian teenagers to be the first to take your business down!.

Well, yes and no. I'd hazard that many traditional datacenters are quite a bit less secure than the big public clouds. Mostly this is a result of complexity stemming from legacy services, not to mention lack of sufficient dedicated resources for security - but does that matter for every single service? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say no.

Cloud Washers

Email with a Web UI in front of it - that's cloud, right? Can I have some money now?

Thankfully this trend seems to be dying down a bit. It's been a while since I have seen any truly egregious examples of cloud-washing.


I was doing the same thing on my Model 317 Mark XXV, only with vacuum tubes! Now get off my lawn!

Sorry, mainframe folks - this is a little bit unfair, because the mainframe did indeed introduce many concepts that we in the open world are only adopting now. However, denying that cloud is significantly different from the mainframe is not helpful.

Flat Clouders

My IT people tell me all the servers are virtualised and that means we have cloud, right? When I send them an email asking them for something, the response I get a couple of weeks later says "cloud" right in the subject line…

Cloud is not just an IT project, and if it's treated as such, it'll fail, and fail badly. However I still hear CIOs planning out a cloud without involving or even consulting the business, or allowing for any self-service capabilities at all.

This elephant is pretty big, though, and I am sure there are more examples out there. Why don't you share your own?

  1. Because it's the twenty-first century, and we believe in giving women equal opportunities to make fools of themselves. Somehow they mostly manage to resist taking that particular opportunity, though…