Larry Ellison Is Right and Wrong About Cloud Computing


I agree with many of the folks commenting about Larry Ellison's rant on cloud computing -- he is one funny guy and actually cuts to the point that cloud computing isn't something new, it's just the current fashionable term for affordable hosted services. But he is wrong in saying he can avoid it. Once something like this gains steam, fighting it simply makes you look old and out of date.


Let's talk for a moment about marketing shorthand, why it is important, and how it can often go out of control.


Marketing Shorthand or Branding a Concept


Every few months, someone comes up with a new concept. Most, like autonomic computing or on-demand computing, are vendor specific, but some, like cloud computing or Web 2.0 become the latest industry buzz word.


These buzz words typically signify a change to the vendors in the importance of what they are trying to sell; they provide a context to wrap products and solutions around. Without the concept of cloud computing, we would have had vastly fewer articles about the subject and vastly fewer people interested in it.


Web 2.0 isn't the second generation of anything. We didn't truly update the Web; we just talked about a series of evolutionary changes and wrapped them with a name. There is no product team working on a Web 3.0 replacement for 2.0 either, but we are already talking about Web 3.0 as if there were.


Getting out of Control


I was just at an event held by a vendor in Budapest. For what appeared to be almost every other product feature, they had created a unique word to help describe what the feature did. It was as if they were developing their own language. I spent way too much time trying to translate their words into what they were really trying to say. If they'd used Klingon instead, at least I would have ended up with a skill that would make it clear that I'd never date again.


This kind of practice can get way out of hand with vendors who want to create a new unique name for everything. This isn't just in tech. I can recall the Turbo-Hydramatic GM Transmission I once had; the name sounds cool, but doesn't it also sound like it has something to do with water? GM did market this name, and I'm quite sure there were buyers that wanted a Turbo-Hydromatic transmission. The key is that they marketed the name after they created it; this can get really expensive if you have a tendency to create a whole language of names.


Wrapping Up: Keep It Simple


In the end, the goal with efforts like this is not to create names that someone can complain about, but to be able to more easily communicate a key benefit and sell a related product. Sometimes I think marketing forgets that they are supposed to be selling something, which is why things like Pimp My Infrastructure and nutty names result. KISS, or Keep It Simple Stupid, should always be applied to any effort. If you don't need a special name, take pity on those of us in the real world and don't create one just because you can. However, once a name like cloud computing exists, ignoring it represents a significant risk -- and not one that I would take. Then again, I don't own my own fighter jet.