As a former CIO who is now on the buy side of the business, I think it\u2019s time I help clarify the definition of a true cloud environment\u2014or else a fundamental misunderstanding may lead many of us to mistake the cloud for pollution.\nAt its core, the cloud is an unreliable commoditized infrastructure designed to empower application developers while automating and orchestrating basic tasks. As a result, the \u201ccloudification\u201d of an application is the ability to change task execution by breaking out of the classic three-tier architecture to go more horizontal.\nWhere I feel people get confused is in the commercials. The \u201cpay as you go\u201d or \u201cpay as you consume\u201d characterization is really just a financial model around CAPEX and OPEX. Paying for variable capacity comes at a premium (even vendors need to recover the cost of unused capacity) \u2013 it might be worth it if you are truly variable, but if your aggregate demand continues to grow and rarely goes down, then a model using more fixed \/ allocated capacity will often serve you better.\nKeeping this in mind, consider this as a best practice: Conduct a multiyear total-cost-of-ownership study before going all in. Why, you ask? The reason is quite simple: If you aren\u2019t careful, you will be substituting fixed costs with variable costs. Initially you may think the cloud is a TCO dream, but when you start to add incremental costs to the company\u2019s fixed legacy costs, an OPEX model can prove not only costly but also detrimental.\nIt\u2019s encouraging to see that more of us are moving toward private or hybrid cloud configurations. In the CIO Survey, 80 percent of the respondents across all industries reported moderate to heavy investing in a private cloud, and 76 percent reported moderate to heavy investing in a hybrid cloud.\nThat doesn\u2019t mean that you can take demand management and real-time metering out of the equation, though. My advice is that when you involve third parties, you need to ensure that you are being billed the right amount and passing that cost to the end users in such a way that it helps control demand. This is important when you are spending millions on these services. Metering is the only way to gain control here - a practice that is often overlooked in the rush to leave the shackles of a traditional enterprise infrastructure.\nLastly, be sure to avoid vendor lock-in situations. It won\u2019t take long for cloud vendors to create a dependent relationship by encouraging you to write applications directly to their APIs. Even with OpenStack, you are still locking into that standard and a particular vendor\u2019s support model. Instead, you should strongly consider writing to an abstraction layer.\nBottom line: You need to pay close attention when building a strategy to make sure cloud commitments have solid roots within the organization\u2019s strategic goals. Not only does a well-crafted strategy help you avoid confusing clouds with pollution, but it also enables you to best leverage the scalability and efficiencies that make cloud environments attractive in the first place.