I’ve been in this industry long enough that I wasn’t exactly surprised to hear that we now apparently have a “Cloud 2”. Salesforce.com boss, Marc Benioff, apparently decided a few weeks ago that the first Cloud was not enough, and it was time to turn the technology into a franchise.
Given it’s Friday the 13th, I can’t help but compare to a certain series of horror films. Both are overmilked names, and both rely heavily on marketing and spin to make sales. It’s not that Cloud (or even Cloud 2) isn’t a great idea, but it’s something we didn’t need to name, let alone hype up in the first place.
Look at Apple. Buy enough Apple products, and you end up with a personal cloud. But Apple never felt the need to spend lots of money on ‘to the cloud’ ads (way to make cool technology uncool, there).
Apple’s cloud just happens – with very little work to set up and run. One day you’re in the Telstra shop looking at an iPhone, the next you’re seamlessly backing stuff up to Time Capsule, juggling applications across the iPhone and iPad and streaming movies to the TV via Apple TV.
Apple, proving why it is the world’s most valuable brand, would rather sell an experience that doesn’t need a name. Consumers just want to buy Apple and get on with Angry Birds. Not a 'XXX computer with XXX personal cloud installed'. Those products all do their job really well, but the name itself needs explaining. And when you start trying to explain technology to a consumer, they zone out.
Businesses aren’t really that much different – perhaps because, in many cases, CEOs and boards are not technology experts - just like the typical consumers. From my discussions with people in the industry, actually convincing customers to go to the cloud continues to be problematic, not because they don’t like the idea, but because there’s around a thousand different definitions of ‘cloud’ out there, and that makes being sure about what you’re getting a challenge in itself.
And now we have a new attempt to differentiate a cloud offering by giving it a ‘sequel.’ But that’s just going to create more confusion – Cloud 2 is a sequel to what? It appears to me, at best, all Salesforce.com can do is offer new services, but every new cloud service does that. The hosting provider claims social networking integration is a big part of the future of the cloud, and it probably is, but Facebook was already a cloud provider long before Cloud 2.
It’s just that, like Apple, Facebook hasn’t wasted time pretending that cloud is something new. It’s just connected technology, and we’ve had connected technology since the days of the mainframe.
So no, we don’t need a Cloud 2, 3, 4 or Cloud: The Final Stand. While many companies have invested so much in the ‘cloud’ that they have no choice but to spend massive amounts of money to market it, the reality is that when cloud works well, it doesn’t actually need a name. In the background, it quietly makes life easier.
ARN features editor, Matthew Sainsbury, isn't on Cloud 9 when it comes the nomenclature of Cloud. He tries hard to be - but he just isn't.