You would have thought that after years watching the shenanigans that technology marketers use to pimp their products, I would have grown used to it all. Unfortunately that’s not the case and I still get all fired up when I see opportunism of the worst kind. Case in point is all the vendors leveraging recently exposed issues around Government agencies on both sides of the Atlantic snooping on private data. For the moment I’ll put to the side that PRISM and Tempora are merely the most recent examples of something that has been occurring for decades, and that, despite all the hand wringing about complicit cloud vendors, these agencies can sniff the pipes all they want with or without vendor help.

No, what I want to rant about today is a campaign that Protonet, a German-based vendor of traditional hardware has come up with to differentiate itself. Protonet has slapped some sexy cases on its traditional boxes (in their defense, the box has nice curves and is a very cool shade of orange) and is now saying that its glorified NAS is a great way for small and mid sized businesses to get “cloud benefits, without NSA risks”.

So.. what is this Protonet offering. Essentially it’s a small home or business server that includes some storage (up to 16TB) and processing. Alongside that Protonet is bundling some software – group chat, file sync and sharing, search, task management etc – into the box. The solution makes total sense, a small shared workspace can buy it, get a bunch of solutions it needs, and have total clarity about the ongoing costs of the product (nothing, since Protonet is a traditional “buy it once” hardware product.

Protonet makes total sense, it’s a great solution. But it isn’t in any way cloud.

Let’s use the age old acronyms to run a check on this, firstly Cloudcamp founder Dave Nielsen’s OSSM that states that a cloud service should be:

  • On demand
  • Scalable
  • Self service
  • Metered

Well Protonet isn’t scalable (beyond the obvious ability to swap out drives for bigger ones, its service isn’t metered and while some might call it self-service, driving down to your local computer supplies retailer for a new drive doesn’t really cut it when compared to true programmatical access.

So let’s take another try, this time using the father of Cloudonomics, Joe Weinman’s, CLOUD mnemonic. According to Weinman, a cloud service should be;

  • Common infrastructure
  • Location independence
  • Online accessibility
  • Utility pricing
  • On-demand resources

So Protonet scores even lower using this test. Sadly.

It’s not that the Protonet product isn’t very cool – like I said, it looks really nice. But what the hell is a Private Cloud Appliance? It’s a meaningless term. It harks back to those warnings (now sadly swept under the carpet in his new found love affair for all things oracle) from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff about “the false cloud”. We can argue about nuances around what a cloud is – but Protonet certainly isn’t cloud by any stretch of the imagination.

And one final comment before I end this rant Protonet is saying that this cloud appliance foils the NSA’s ability to snoop. I entirely disagree with this – anyone who believes that the NSA’s tentacles only extend to cloud vendors who give them access to user data is stupid. We’ve already seen suggestions from the UK that Tempora gives authorities access to the pipes themselves – combine this with some smart decryption technology and it’s a safe bet that the Feds can see all. So unless Protonet is suggesting that customers either keep off the internet entirely or roll out their own dedicated networks, and pitch that goes along the lines of “protection from spying Governments” is sadly lacking in substance.


Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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