Thoughts on what businesses actually need from the Cloud, not what vendors wish they needed.

Chris Bliss

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Lets get jargon out of the cloud

Jargon is everywhere: business and ‘the cloud’ are no exception (irony noted). It’s annoying stuff, but ask most people and they’ll say jargon is inevitable, even necessary. Anything technical or new wants for conversational “shortcuts” and those shortcuts become jargon. It’s a placeholder for complex and/or shiny new things and, we admit, we love it – this blog is as jargon-guilty as the next. It’s self-serving, sure, but why explain the intricacies of software architecture when you can just say “it’s scalable?”

Actually, there are a couple good reasons.

The first is that jargon obfuscates meaning. Take the whole “OpEx” vs “CapEx” jargon thing from SaaS. Visit any SaaS promotional site and you’ll see bullets about SaaS eating away OpEx accounts, not CapEx, thereby freeing capital up-front. Problem is, those words don’t mean what SaaS vendors want them to mean: as Geva Perry points out, OpEx and Capex refer to investment types, NOT the timing of cash outlays. As such, there’s no financial benefit to OpEx vs CapEx expenses and it’s misleading of vendors and promoters to misuse the terms.

A second good reason not to use jargon involves dishonesty. Jargon creates “in” and “out” groups: you either get it or you don’t. When we use words like “SaaS,” “IaaS,” even “cloud” we’re alienating outsiders and introducing an unhealthy power dynamic. It’s “we know, you don’t,” “we’re strong, you’re weak.” From a user/client/consumer perspective, such dynamics are unhealthy and dangerously conducive to exploitation.

Obviously, It’s important for vendors, consultants and general IT support NOT to go this route. Instead, seat your ideas and solutions within well-articulated contexts. They’ll be more accessible and they’ll force you to actually think through what you’re saying. It seems like more work but it’s the better long-term strategy.

Now, off to balance my CapEx IaaS accounts ASAP.

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Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.