“Supercloud” RIP


"Supercloud" RIP

Tl;dr: it is time to stick a fork in “supercloud”

Reader Relevance: this is “super-super” niche

The “supercloud” is entering year two in pursuit of a precise and useful definition. Year one was a free-form jazz odyssey of sorts, morphing from one nebulous notion to another. Beyond some vague sense of multi-cloud middleware, it remains a hand-wavy concept (and, independent of any actual definition, is an unhelpful term all by itself).

“PaaS. You’ve Invented PaaS”

The sultans of “supercloud” still can’t explain why and exactly how it is distinct from PaaS. The fact the latest definitional iteration recursively requires a “SuperPaaS” makes this point even better than I do.

A Participation Trophy?

The abortive launch looms even larger when we try to identify in the wild what is and, importantly, what isn’t “supercloud”. Proffered “supercloud” examples have included Aviatrix Systems, Capital One, Cisco, CloudFlare, Clumio, Couchbase, Crowdstrike, Databricks, Dell, Goldman Sachs, HPE, IBM, MongoDB, Nutanix, Okta, Snowflake, Starburst Data, Veeam Software, VMware, Walmart, and Zscaler. Whatever you do, don’t try to reconcile what those companies do with any of the lists of purported “supercloud” attributes.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating “supercloud” membership as perhaps overly inclusive, the promoters unabashedly say So yeah – pretty much every tech vendor with any size or momentum and new industry players are coming out of hiding and competing… building superclouds.”

You're a supercloud!!!
And you're a supercloud!!!
And you're a supercloud!!!
Everyone's a supercloud!!!

In the dynamic and fast-moving world of technology, the window to make a concept stick is short. That time has passed for “supercloud” (if for no other reason than it is still unclear whether it takes an article or not). Game over. The free trial has expired. We’ve run out of time on our shared cognitive parking meter. Open mic night at the Thought Leadership Café has come to its inevitable conclusion and the participants must now return to their day jobs.

A “Thing”

Despite this rocky and amorphous debut, team “supercloud” is nevertheless taking a victory lap. They have given themselves a A+ (the highest grade for any of their 2022 predictions…) on their (characteristically imprecise) prediction that “supercloud becomes a thing.”

The case for “supercloud” becoming a “thing” is based on – wait for it — people mentioning it. Never mind that many of those mentions ranged from polite critique to disappointment that “we can’t simply nuke it from orbit”.

I too had a few “superlative” questions (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Those criticisms earned me a call-out in the victory lap:

“One of the most interesting is Cloudflare Inc. The biggest supercloud antagonist, Charles Fitzgerald, once predicted no vendor would ever use the term in its marketing. Cloudflare has and it launched its version of supercloud at its Developer Week.”

While I am deeply honored to have unlocked the super-est “supercloud antagonist” achievement, as usual the svengalis of “supercloud” struggled to parse the provided feedback. My bar for supercloud acceptance was “The real test is when will companies proudly identify themselves as a “supercloud” right on their home page. Does the concept have enough value and specificity that companies will use it to position themselves to customers?”

Which company is going to position themselves as a “supercloud” in the Ries and Trout sense? Given it would be marketing malpractice and career limiting for the perpetrator, I am still not holding my breath. And CloudFlare is not such an example.

CloudFlare’s use of “supercloud” was not an endorsement of anything team “supercloud” has been talking about. CloudFlare used it as a throwaway label for a set of “developer week” blog posts. They took the term and used it to describe serverless (one of the few industry buzzwords not to have been invoked in the game of buzzword bingo that has been “supercloud”). “Supercloud” hasn’t shown up in their home page positioning and has long since scrolled off their blog.

The response to CloudFlare hijacking the term from a “supercloud” sponsor was an anemic thanks for “some really nice additions to the definition the community put forth”. Note that “additions” here means a usage completely at odds with anything team “supercloud” has discussed. Even more ironically, CloudFlare’s usage is much closer to that of the hyperscale clouds, the one group that has been explicitly excluded from the “supercloud” party.

The fact the quest for meaning around “supercloud” has been bequeathed to “the community” in hopes someone, anyone, can salvage something from it underscores what a waste of time this is.

Surely in 2023 we can find better things to spend time on, starting with the impacts of economic pressures across the entire cloud ecosystem.

I’ll end here by recycling a previous conclusion:

The “supercloud” concept remains super sloppy and an ontological nothingburger. Neologisms aren’t helpful unless they delineate and illuminate in some precise way, and can be triangulated and contrasted with existing concepts and terminology. Without the ability to definitively identify what is and isn’t a “supercloud”, it is just marketectural noise pollution.

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