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Tech titans sell yesterday's idea wrapped in tomorrow's dream

Cloud-washing: The process of making legacy look cool

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Open ... and Shut News flash: Oracle and SAP are both "cloud washers" who pretend to have sexy, cool technology, but actually are encumbered by legacy systems.

This is the charge that cloud consultant David Linthicum and Deal Architect founder Vinnie Mirchandani level against the two giants, but one wonders why they bother. It's standard operating procedure for the enterprise incumbents to market tomorrow's technology while selling yesterday's products. What other choice do they have?

In order to peddle its systems, Oracle is revisiting the dot-com bust by renting "private infrastructure as a service clouds" to CIOs anxious to jump on this cloud bandwagon. But as Linthicum points out, Oracle's "new" offering is arguably neither cloud nor an equipment lease. Instead, Linthicum insists, it's "an odd hybrid created because Oracle finds itself stuck between the rock and the cloud, reluctant to devalue its hugely lucrative enterprise software products by folding into cloud-service pricing."

In other words, Oracle is trying to confuse the issue while its lumbering products catch up with the market.

Not that its stodgy enterprise customers will care. Nor will they mind SAP talking a big cloud game but, as Mirchandani points out, doing roughly two per cent of its revenues in cloud-related business. After all, they don't look to the enterprise IT titans to innovate: they just want a big brand to package yesterday's innovations for them.

And in some cases, they just want to keep using the same old legacy rubbish forever and ever and... ever.

How else can one explain that IBM still racks up $1.2bn in Lotus Notes revenue, as The Wall Street Journal reports. Who knew that you had to pay for Lotus Notes torture? And so much?

Back to cloud. Of course Oracle and SAP aren't delivering true cloud technology. To do so would threaten tens of billions of dollars in revenue streams. A risk-taker like Apple might be willing to build a new category of technology that potentially cannibalises its existing business (the iPad versus the Mac), but Oracle and its ilk aren't risk-takers. They're risk-mitigators.

Which is precisely why CIOs don't mind buying their cloud-washed, "open" products. ®

Matt Asay is vice president of corporate strategy at 10gen, the MongoDB company. Previously he was SVP of business development at Nodeable, which was acquired in October 2012. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe (now part of Facebook) and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register. You can follow him on Twitter @mjasay.

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