News/Trends, Tech/Engineering

Don’t Get Cloud-Washed: What Cloud-Native Truly Means and Why It Matters

Prem Ananthakrishnan

Not every solution can be called cloud-native. “Cloud” has become an overused term, with many companies trying to capitalize on the value that enterprise companies are beginning to see in the cloud as well as the positive business results they are getting from adopting true cloud solutions. This has resulted in many solutions in the market having the word “cloud” in their name even if they don’t offer any actual cloud delivery services at all.

This has become so prevalent that there is an official term for it: “cloud washing.”

“Cloud washing (also spelled cloudwashing) is the purposeful and sometimes deceptive attempt by a vendor to rebrand an old product or service by associating the buzzword ‘cloud’ with it.”  —Source: TechTarget  

Some of the big names in the software industry are guilty of this too. (See the InfoWorld article “Cloud washing goes beyond the Oracle lawsuit

The most common form of cloud washing is a practice where a vendor takes an implementation of their existing on-premises software, hosts it in a virtualized data center, and calls it “cloud” software. This is typically the easiest path for many traditional companies to quickly get a “cloud stamp” on their existing solution. Other cloud washing models exist as well such as Private Cloud, Cloud Gateway, etc.

So what really makes a solution cloud-native?

Truly Cloud-Native

For a company that is truly cloud-native, the cloud is not just a technology — it’s a business model. It is inherent in how the company builds, sells, markets, and delivers software. It’s tightly ingrained in the company’s pricing model, go-to-market (GTM) strategy, and partner ecosystem. On the technology front, being cloud-native directly impacts the software development life cycle — including how software is architected, tested, and delivered to customers. Here at Druva, the cloud is fully embedded into the company’s vision and culture as well as the technology stack and the way we conduct business.

Now you may be thinking: “That’s all great, but does being truly cloud-Native really matter if you are the end consumer or customer?”

A true cloud-native service provides significant advantages to customers over other cloud-washed offerings. Often, these benefits may not be very obvious — especially if the end user is not fully aware of how software is managed and delivered by a cloud provider. For example:

  • Ability to scale up and down elastically — A true cloud-native service can scale up and down dynamically depending on spikes or dips in workloads. Conversely, on-prem and cloud-hosted solutions (running virtual software on cloud infrastructure) are architected to consume a fixed set of resources (e.g., compute, bandwidth, storage, memory, etc.), requiring you to install and manage additional nodes or clusters to support increased demand. If the demand drops, you are stuck with the underutilized capacity that you most likely overpaid for with a crudely architected “hosted cloud” service. 
  • Consumption-based pricing — Directly related to elastic scaling, this pricing model enables consumers to pay for a service based on how much they actually use or consume. Only truly cloud-native solutions can support this model in a sustainable manner. In fact, Druva is the only vendor in our space that can support a fully transparent “pay as you go” pricing model. Every other non-native cloud service provider will have several fees, not all of them transparent or predictable. 
  • Predictable cloud costs – Customers who deploy hosted offerings in a public cloud infrastructure like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Azure often get surprised by what it costs to manage and maintain software in the cloud. In addition to the straightforward costs of storage and compute services, there are many variable costs and nuances. Networking resources as well as input/output (I/O) costs often fluctuate dramatically and are generally underestimated. For example, the pricing for storage varies by storage type (object or block) and the redundancy options for storage tiers (warm or cold). Some of these costs also vary by region. A true cloud-native solution abstracts all this complexity and provides a simple, transparent, and reliable service and cost-structure for enterprises to consume. 
  • Performance and scale — This is interlinked with predictable cloud costs and elastically scaling on demand. If you are hosting a solution on your own but do not provision extra resources and increase your cloud operating costs to serve the demand, the performance of the software could significantly deteriorate. You’re also now on the hook to pay the cloud provider’s fees for other compute and networking resources consumed as well as storage costs that could grow exponentially because the application simply isn’t optimized for long-term public cloud storage. 
  • Feature upgrades — A multi-tenant Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that is born in the cloud provides unparalleled feature velocity and agility without the associated cost and effort of traditional software upgrades. New features are rapidly provisioned to customers with no new software deployment cycles and minimal downtime. Fixes get rolled out faster, and customers get faster time to value. Gone are the days when you had to wait six months for a vendor to deliver new software, and then another six months after that to deploy. At Druva, we follow a continuous delivery model with cloud updates that ship every three weeks. This allows our customers to get new capabilities quickly with faster time to value. 
  • SLA and ownership — A truly cloud-native SaaS solution provider offers you guaranteed uptime for the entire service. You are not dealing with multiple vendors (e.g., AWS and the software provider), and there is no finger-pointing if the software does not meet performance, availability, and security standards. In a cloud-native solution, your SaaS provider is solely responsible for ensuring that the service meets the standards specified in your service level agreement (SLA). 
  • Security and compliance — Security and compliance are top concerns for organizations moving to the cloud. With a SaaS solution, your vendor is responsible for patching, maintenance, and fixing security vulnerabilities, which substantially reduces your organization’s operational burden and risk. Imagine not having to worry about whether your InfoSec team applied the latest patch to fend off a recent SSL vulnerability or malware that’s going viral and bringing down services on the Internet. Another great benefit of a truly multi-tenant, cloud-native solution is that security fixes and patches are turned around quickly and consistently provide equal value for all customers. 
  • Cost of support — This is another hidden cost with cloud-washed solutions that many organizations don’t see outright. If you host software in the public cloud and your application goes down, it is critical to have the capability to quickly determine whether the software, the public-cloud instance, or the public-cloud provider caused the problem. In a cloud-washed solution, this would require an investment in a support infrastructure and personnel that can handle questions and provide assistance to end users until the services are back up, which will have a direct impact on your operating expenses (OPEX).

So, how do you find out if your cloud provider is “washed” or providing a true cloud-native service? Here are a few questions to ask your provider to make sure you’re getting what you need and expect:Is the service single tenant or multi-tenant?

  • Is the service single tenant or multi-tenant?
  • How often do you release new features and updates?
  • Who is responsible for installing patches and performing upgrades?
  • Will I need to install more software to gain additional capacity?
  • Is your service a SaaS offering?
  • Is my pricing elastic so I pay only for what I use?
  • Who is responsible for penetration testing, security certifications (e.g., FedRAMP and SOC2)?

For more on the business value of cloud-native software delivery, download “Choosing the Right Model for Enterprise Backup & Recovery



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