Cloud-Washed vs. Cloud-Native Software

The term “cloud-washed” came about the same way “green washed” did, which was used to expose companies that repackaged and marketed existing products as “green” without ever meeting any of the environmental standards. Likewise, “cloud-washed” is used to describe a trend in the software development community where companies take advantage of the basic concept of cloud computing — a general reference to any service provided over the Internet — to rebrand their products as cloud solutions. However, software that is truly integrated with the cloud is built from the beginning to take advantage of all the cloud has to offer and pass those benefits on to customers.

Many larger companies engaging in cloud washing do have some cloud integration. However, they haven’t adapted their design principles, built the needed infrastructure or hired dedicated management teams to support true cloud-formed software, all of which is a major financial investment. Most of the time, these companies take software that was previously built for on-premises and modify it to run on virtual machines. Then they just have their customers deploy it from the cloud and pay by the hour to use it.

Although on-premises software definitely has its place, be careful about cloud-washed software that was repackaged to look new. You won’t have access to the same great services and you’ll more than likely be partnering with a company that takes shortcuts, or is failing to stay current and covering it up with marketing.

Basically, there are highly important services missing from cloud-washed software. To better understand the difference, we’ll have to evaluate the fundamental services that real cloud-native software or SaaS (Software as a Service) offers.

Freeing your IT with automated updates and maintenance

By definition, cloud-native software is fully coded to be hosted in the cloud from the beginning. The software is maintained for the user across a multi-tenant architecture for multiple levels of redundancy. Clients are given a virtualized infrastructure that is maintained and managed by the vendor. This allows the client access to the most up-to-date products and releases without changing your customized settings. This also means your IT department won’t have to worry about installing upgrades or maintaining outdated versions.

Updating cloud-washed software requires downtime. Cloud-native software doesn’t need downtime, because SaaS upgrades are inherently automatic. Cloud-native software relieves your IT department from having to download upgrades and perform software maintenance. Another indicator of whether or not your software is truly cloud-based is by looking on Amazon Web Services. If your software doesn’t appear under a search for SaaS, then the software is not SaaS and it is not a full cloud-based service.

The power of the SaaS model – network automation and flexible billing

Cloud-native software is built entirely on the cloud, giving the customer an automatic connection to their vendor. Utilizing the network automation features of SaaS, labor-intensive processes can be mechanized. Network-enabled automation is cost-effective by freeing your on-premises storage and IT department from performing a range of tasks, from automated deployment to real-time maintenance needs.

IT professionals are facing a more complex future where automated processes will be a necessity.

In IDC’s seventh digital universe study, EMC’s Jeremy Burton shared insight on a recent trend where companies from all industries are shape shifting into software-defined enterprises. As more companies shift, so does the burden on IT departments. They will need to discover new ways to adapt their technologies around existing infrastructure.

Additionally, the amount of digital data created by individuals and organizations is growing exponentially. IT departments will have to take on more, especially in the storing, analysis, and management of massive data.

Automating IT tasks and business process is cost-efficiency that is felt immediately. Adding to the savings are the scaling capacities of cloud-native software, where hundreds to millions of customers served on shared infrastructure helps SaaS vendors operate an economies-of-scale, reducing the cost of operation with each additional client and passing the savings on to each client.

Setting automated infrastructure (IaaS) as the standard allows software to be developed simply and deployed easily, because developers don’t have to reconfigure or upgrade in the installation process. This in turn reduces the TCO (total cost of ownership) and frees the vendor and clients from performing unnecessary tasks. The ability for benchmarking, collaboration, crowd souring, and real-time analytics are all exclusive to cloud-native software, each offering potential sources of income with a competitive advantage and marketing insight.

A large perk of cloud-native software, through its SaaS features, is in its billing. SaaS uses subscription billing, otherwise known as “pay-per-use”, allowing you to better manage your cost by scaling up or down as you need it. Your company will also be able to save costs by only purchasing one account, instead of paying for 50 and only using one for a single task or having to go through the trouble of adding a new one. The benefit of this model is you will only pay for what you actually use.

The need for Global Performance and High Availability

Cloud-native software is built with failover capabilities – automatic switching to redundant or standby servers in case of failure – giving access even when something fails in the system or data is lost or corrupted. This makes cloud-native software invaluable in a global performance setting where software needs to be highly available and resilient.

Software operating on a single machine instance means you will not only have global performance and high availability issues, you will also run into problems with scale. Infrastructures that are fixed make it difficult for vendors to service each client’s needs automatically. Cloud-native software is automated to deliver new machine instances as you need them, while balancing the load across multiple instances.

With multi-tenancy – multiple accounts sharing the same infrastructure during periods of low use – coupled with automatic scaling and load balancing, SaaS vendors have the ability to service multiple client’s with high efficiency – be it 5 or 500,000 uses to transferring 5 GB or 5 PB.

No matter where you’re working from, with internet access cloud-native software offers consistent performance around the world. You can expect access to the same customization, files, and transfer speeds, regardless of your available bandwidth or the infrastructure of the local network. Having consistent performance is a tremendous advantage for global companies with multi-national locations. The technical differences cloud-native and cloud-washed software is highly nuanced and growing more important over time.

The importance of security

According to a study by Gartner, the majority of security breaches occur at the application level. For on-premise software, IT organizations are responsible for the application security. With the SaaS model, the application is done by the vendor, which is a double-edged sword. Relieving some of the IT department’s workload is becoming necessity overtime. At the same time, dealing with compliance, audits, and the potential threat of cyber attacks by hackers becomes complicated with multi-tenant and virtualized multi-locations. Some SaaS developers respond to security reactively as breaches are occurring rather than strengthening security features as a part of the entire development process.

Security has always been a core concern at Signiant, because we consistently deal with high-value, large asset file transfers through the internet. Traditionally, most of our clients are involved in the Media & Entertainment industries, where security of their intellectual and creative property is paramount. However, we’ve been working with more clients from a variety of industries as companies overall are taking on large-scale digital data projects. Our larger clients are moving massive files like entire movies worth millions to billions in investment. Other clients moving smaller assets still need Enterprise-grade security features to move their intellectual property that is at the heart of their business. We take security extremely seriously; applying multiple layers of security and end-to-end encryption of data to both of our SaaS products – Media Shuttle and Signiant Flight.

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