Disgusting: Protonet and its cloud marketing

First of all, congratulations Protonet. To achieve 200,000 EURO on Seedmatch is a big thing. I guess you’ve read my artikel about you. It was even been linked at Seedmatch. But nevertheless, you sold your product still as cloud computing product? “Protonet revolutionized the cloud computing market with the simplest server in the world that combines the best of the cloud with the benefits of local hardware.” Sorry, even if I think your box is actually interesting, but instead of positioning this as a “NAS” on the market, you are rather jumping on the cloud computing train and do cloud-washing. This is disgusting.

Protonet doesn’t tell the truth!

I had a chat with Ali Jelveh at CeBIT 2012 shortly after the release of Protonet. And he has admitted in this conversation that Protonet has nothing to do with cloud, but sounds good, just because everyone is talking about the cloud.

Protonet deliberately deceiving investors

Protonet writes on Seedmatch:

We tell an honest, authentic story. We do not artificially sugarcoat our product. Independence and freedom in the digital age affect everyone. And we have the necessary tools to obtain these basic values​​.”

But then I have to ask why you sold your solution for something it’s not? Credibility is something else.

For the investors the jump on the cloud train:

“In terms of individual benefit aspects of the Protonet box, we compete each with a number of competitors. In the Home Server field, we compete with vendors such as Synology, Iomega, Western Digital and Buffalo. In the social collaboration market, we challenge with services like Yammer, Dropbox, Campfire or Teambox for future market shares. Our innovative combination of hardware and collaboration platform in a design product currently no other company offers.”

“In short: All the benefits of the cloud – without the disadvantages. Our customers regain control of their data and information superiority and enjoy the highest possible data security.”

Furthermore Protonet has used the growth figures of the cloud computing market to look more attractive, although Protonet has nothing to do with cloud computing!

Cloud computing properties

To identify a true Cloud Computing offering, you shall take care of the following characteristics:

  • On Demand:
    I obtain the resources at the moment, when I actually need them. Afterwards I just “give them back”.
  • Pay as you Go:
    I just pay for the resources which I am actually using, when I am using them. Thereby it will be deducted per user, per gigabyte or per minute/hour.
  • No basic fee:
    Using a Cloud Computing offering I do not have to pay a monthly/annual basic fee!
  • High Availability:
    When I need the resources I can use them exactly at this time.
  • High Scalability:
    The resources adapt to my needs. This means that they either grow with my needs, if I need more performance or they become smaller if the requirements decrease.
  • High Reliability:
    Resources I am using during a specific period of time are actually available when I need them.
  • Blackbox:
    I don’t have to care about the things inside the Cloud offering. I just use the service over an open, well documented API.
  • Automation:
    After the establishment regarding my needs, I do not have to take any interventions manually, while using the offering. That means, I do not have to change the performance of the Server or the size of the storage space manually. The Cloud provider allocates capabilities (like tools etc.) for automation.
  • Access via the Internet:
    This is discussible! However, the cost advantage which is obtained by Cloud Computing is obsolete if an expensive exclusive leased line is required, for example to use the resources of a provider.
  • No additional installations:
    With a SaaS offer you have the full use over the web browser without to install new software components, eg. Java (environment).

Question, can a NAS meet these requirements? No!

Even internationally Protonet is criticized

Although I have never spoken about Protonet with him, my friend and analyst colleague Ben Kepes from New Zealand critically considered the solution and also put it in the category of cloud-washing.

Two areas that also Ben clearly highlights:

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.

Congratulations Protonet, you have made it with Ben on one of the most influential cloud blogs in the world. However, he also has seen through you!

Journalists are not critical enough

The best thing is that even German journalists had been upset by this marketing. On a laudatory article is published and exactly in the middle is an info box with the title

“The Advantages of Cloud Computing”.

And the description:

“Especially for small and medium businesses initial investments in IT ar an enormous hurdle. Cloud models as an alternative not only offer the opportunity to convert capital costs into operating costs, but also save at the bottom line.”

A big contrast on a single page.

Update: After the publication of this post, justifiably deleted the above named article from their website. Thus the link is redirected to the homepage of the magazin.

Honesty, honesty, honesty

Summarized question: What has Protonet to do with cloud computing or a private cloud? Summarized and simple answer: Nothing.

Honestly, I find it ridiculous to jump on the cloud computing train, confuse investors, journalists and the rest of the general public with such a marketing bubble and then cashing money. Actually, Protonet did not need that. The enhanced NAS Chatter copy is generally a good idea. And in all seriousness, I do not begrudge Protonet’s success so far. But to build a business on untruths and deceptions already backfired on numerous examples.

This post is written with lots of emotion and sounds nasty. But every single word I mean seriously, because telling untruths for the own advantage are not a harmless crime!

By Rene Buest

Rene Buest is Gartner Analyst covering Infrastructure Services & Digital Operations. Prior to that he was Director of Technology Research at Arago, Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead at Crisp Research, Principal Analyst at New Age Disruption and member of the worldwide Gigaom Research Analyst Network. Rene is considered as top cloud computing analyst in Germany and one of the worldwide top analysts in this area. In addition, he is one of the world’s top cloud computing influencers and belongs to the top 100 cloud computing experts on Twitter and Google+. Since the mid-90s he is focused on the strategic use of information technology in businesses and the IT impact on our society as well as disruptive technologies.

Rene Buest is the author of numerous professional technology articles. He regularly writes for well-known IT publications like Computerwoche, CIO Magazin, LANline as well as and is cited in German and international media – including New York Times, Forbes Magazin, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Computerwoche, CIO, Manager Magazin and Harvard Business Manager. Furthermore Rene Buest is speaker and participant of experts rounds. He is founder of and writes about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, technologies, management and strategies. He holds a diploma in computer engineering from the Hochschule Bremen (Dipl.-Informatiker (FH)) as well as a M.Sc. in IT-Management and Information Systems from the FHDW Paderborn.

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