Can Cloud vendors move beyond the terminology debate?

I recently mentioned Richard Messik's great post castigating Cloud vendors on their jargon overload in the panel discussions at Softworld back in October.  Over on AccountingWEB there has been some vigorous debate around the Cloud issues in discussion threads on whether accountants should be talking to their clients about Cloud Computing, the business case for SaaS, or the terminology itself.  If you meander through the discussions I draw three conclusions:

  1.  There is plenty of confusion about the terminology, jargon and marketing hype spinning around the topic.
  2. The debate goes all over the place, highlighting a definite need for education and resources to explain  the business benefits with more use cases and good examples.
  3. There is a group of anti SaaS/Cloud types on AccountingWEB (like many places elsewhere) who seem more keen to argue about semantics and jargon, rather than moving the debate on to business value.

Dennis suggested this is a self inflicted wound and highlighted how some vendors are avoiding the Cloud term.  Back on those AccountingWEB discussions, Gary Turner of Xero commented:

"I'm really struggling to find the will to participate more in here, as every thread seems to get barely a few feet off the ground before being sucked back into the on-premise troll vortex."

AccountingWEB have a big potential problem here if they are losing "1%ers" like Gary from the debate, but it goes wider.  Even at the recent, highly successful launch of EuroCloud UK, attended by around 60 vendors from SAP, NetSuite and Salesforce to the smaller SaaS players, there was some argument over the Cloud and SaaS terms.  I know that Phil Wainewright, EuroCloud UK's chair, has recently helped avoid the whole of EuroCloud get sucked in to a terminology debate where he feels there will too many opinions across such a diverse group of vendors.  As he explained to me:

"The consensus from our launch meeting discussion was to focus on business results rather than inward facing definition debates."

I am one of the crowd that think it should be straightforward to get a consensus on terms like Cloud Computing, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, and whether the Cloud is Public or Private.  However, I can also see the waste of time this debate could be.  I'm hoping we can all get beyond this, but places like AccountingWEB have a role to play to provide resources to help demystify the topic, and thought leadership for their readership so they can see why it is worth investigating.


With all this going on, it is no coincidence that in the last 9 months the Intellect SaaS Group, the BASDA's Cloud SIG and  EuroCloud UK, already mentioned above, have all been formed.  SaaS is on the verge of becoming mainstream in the UK, and all three groups are trying to address this clear market demand for providing better information and clarity.   All three are trying to hit exactly the problem we are talking about here, but one of the ways we can move the debate on is with practical initiatives as well as case studies and education resources.  So a few weeks ago Dennis Howlett triggered an idea which resulted in a preliminary meeting between  Philip Wainewright, on behalf of EuroCloud UK, myself as  the acting chair of Intellect SaaS Group, and BASDA's CEO Jairo Rojas, hosted at Chartered Accountants Hall by Richard Anning , head of the ICAEW's IT Faculty.  The aim is for the 3 vendor groups to work together with the Institute representing their membership on the buy side of the equation to address topics like security (on various levels from data to single sign on  to APIs) to see if we can agree best practice or some form of quality mark that all of the vendors could sign up to.  What we don't want is some complicated set of standards of the kind that OASIS and the OMG and other groups are talking about - whatever we agree has to be practical, and add value for the buyer (not the vendor or developer) and to make sure the scheme is affordable for small SaaS startups as well as the bigger players.  Dennis has already blogged about that first meeting at his place, and on the front page of ZDNet, so the idea is getting a fair bit of attention.  All we've done so far is open a sensible dialogue and laid down some good intentions, but all the potential buyers, consultants and vendors I've spoken to so far are very supportive.  A by-product of the meeting is that as well as working on this "standards" issue we will make sure each group cooperates where possible and uses their resources on complimentary things.  Expect some specific announcements early in the new year.