When “effortless” is anything but: Today’s cloud washing is all about hybrid

For the past few years cloud washing was a practice IT vendors used to paint their not-necessarily-cloudy products as cloudy. It was widespread and obnoxious. It would be nice to say that the trend dissipated, but that is not the case. It has just morphed into hybrid cloud washing.

Hybrid is everywhere. As companies weigh decisions about what workloads to move to the cloud, vendors are using the descriptor to persuade potential customers that their workloads will move “seamlessly” or “effortlessly” between their private cloud and some public cloud. If only saying it made it so.

HP cloud evangelist Margaret Dawson

HP cloud evangelist Margaret Dawson

The fact is it takes a lot of effort to make something effortless, according to Margaret Dawson, VP of product marketing and cloud evangelist for HP Cloud Services(s hpq). In reality, hybrid cloud is a goal.

“If you look at the auto industry, hybrid means the combination of a traditional engine and carburetor with the ability to use a different power source,” Dawson said in a recent interview.

The upside is efficiency but there’s also a benefit in that the driver doesn’t have to worry which power source is driving the vehicle at any given moment. Hiding the complexity of what makes that power handoff work doesn’t make it any less complex, however. IT consumers, likewise, shouldn’t have to know or care if their application is running in the basement server room or on a private or public cloud somewhere else.

Effortlessness takes effort

Still, Dawson and other cloud experts acknowledge that it takes a lot of good old-fashioned know-how and (dare I say it?) effort to make switching back and forth between the legacy in-house IT and the cloud look effortless.

Virtustream CEO Rodney Rogers agreed. “The fact is beyond simple API compatibility, there is a ton of technology required to truly federate workloads between on-prem private clouds and off-prem public or virtual private clouds,” he noted via email. There is also debate about what features are to be federated.

Structure Europe in article squareCompanies like HP and Virtustream, hope to parlay their enterprise know-how to deliver this hybrid promise, as does VMware(s vmw) which, for the record, called its public cloud option vCloud Hybrid Services.  Other than the technology issues, there’s the whole notion of Service Level Agreements, which these vendors know a little something about.

Look for this topic to be front and center next week at Structure: Europe where Dawson will chat with GigaOM PRO analyst Paul Miller about who does what when everyone is a cloud provider.