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How do I hype thee, let me count the ways?

By Contributor, Thu 1 Dec 2011
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Article by Sean McDonald, Director, Sales Systems Ltd.

Now I’m just as guilty as anyone when it comes to hyping the heck out of things and often ask myself why.

My conclusion is it comes from serious lashings of impatience, a love of new technology and new ‘thingamajingies’ in general, and finally, always finding myself in a position where I’m the bloke in charge of pushing out the sales and marketing message and firing things up.

Yep, that’s where hype comes from, from me at least.

Before I started my company Sales Systems, I was at ICONZ for a few years where I was both the CEO and CHO (chief hype officer). Cloud was the new ‘thingamajingy’ de-jour and by jingos we were going to let the world know we had the best one, or, several, of the…..things. So what is the point of the hype and for what end game? Well, imagine for a minute if we had marketed cloud computing as it really was.

"A series of 2GMH clustered servers that were powered in Tier 3GTZ@# Datacentres connected to blah blah routers and switches to enable 500Mhz Interweb processing to reduce expenditure , blah blah!” How boring would that have been? Get my point?

OK, no one would argue with the extreme levels of marketing attention from everyone from start-ups to 30-year-old software companies (who, us?) to service providers. But just because a bunch of ‘hypists’ (read marketing) people got in a frenzy doesn't mean we should write off the trend they are talking about as a bunch of meaningless fluff. The hype around cloud made us pay attention.

Not only that, the hype lives up to its expectations. Well almost. Added to this, some really good things have come out of the hype around cloud and continue to do so. A name for a new but old, great idea.

There were a bunch of technologies and entrepreneurs out there struggling for several years to put a palatable name to what they were working on to help them sell the stuff. Some started off calling this grid computing, some utility computing, and others more obscure terms than those before early hype around cloud computing a few years back gave a name to the idea. Cloud created another way to catch the attention of enterprise IT.

By talking about dynamic, elastic (what?) and infinitely scalable compute power, ears perked up. It was new, different, visionary, full of promise - mostly being fulfilled - and even appealed to the bean counters. The hype got the business people involved and not just the techies. All the hubbub over cloud computing got the business users excited at a time when the economy was giving them little to be excited about.

The hype pressured big vendors into self-reflection. Many of the larger vendors jumped on the cloud bandwagon through new offerings and some blatant rebranding of old offerings (shame on you). To make this work, vendors had to take stock and rethink what they could and should be providing to meet customer demand.

How dare they - they being customers... All of this created a world of new application offerings never thought possible only a few short years ago. Imagine selling enterprise CRM for $20 per user five years ago? Heck, when we tried doing this at Unisys 10 years ago with ASP Services, we were laughed at. "CRM over the web? You’ve got to be kidding.” Now there are hundreds of them: no contracts, loads of plugins, pay your money and away you go.

When a trend or shift being hyped actually has merit, something useful tends to come out the other end. As someone who pushed the envelope 10 years ago at Unisys with ASP Services, and more recently at ICONZ with Versa Cloud, I can now tell you with my own money now being spent, that cloud is indeed reality, meaningful, economic, beneficial and yes, it is mainstream. My whole business runs on the cloud.

Hype is good - with a few important caveats. Be critical. Be well-armed with the right questions to ask in order to discern the valuable from the merely fancifully over-marketed. Be ready to see the value in approaching something a new way, even if it's something you've done the same way for decades. Be pragmatic enough to know it won't happen overnight or with the wave of a magic wand.

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