Driven by numerous factors, including the need for business agility and rapid data deployment; the evolution of mobile workforces and the move to BYOD, cloud services are rapidly coming of age in the enterprise, and as they do, conversations are turning from purchasing decisions based on price toward new criteria covering current need and future flexibility.
business users get wise to the cloud
That at least is the message within at least one recent survey from the Everest Group.
This claims that attitudes toward the cloud are changing, with business needs for SaaS and IaaS determining some buyer’s future plans. While some still see email support as a key cloud deployment driver, IT professionals know there’s more to it: disaster recovery and business intelligence needs are also driving the future of cloud services.
But, cost concerns are only part of what’s visible on tech decision-maker’s mental bandwidth.
They like the idea of using cloud-based systems to reduce the time to market of some products; they see that they can increase business agility by making it possible to quickly deploy new infrastructure in support of changing business needs and growth. These considerations are driving interest in cloud-based services.
They see it easing workloads and providing access to bespoke task-focused services and educations. This awareness is driving the industry. A recent 451 Research report predicts the cloud service market will see a 44% CAGR through until 2015.
cloud has its day
That’s a big claim, borne out by the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), which believes that by the end of next year 75% of business users will be using at least one cloud service, while 80% will at least increase their spend on hosted applications and services.
“The market is clearly moving out of a nascent state into mainstream adoption," said Andy Burton, chair of CIF.
The number of first-time users of cloud computing services in the UK has increased by 27% from last year, the organization added.
A recent Open Data Alliance survey suggests adoption is moving forward around 15 percent faster than expected, with vertical markets such as human resources, finance and sales particularly hungry to make use of these tools.
At present there’s a knowledge gap which must be filled. In the US the Government Business Council (GBC) survey found only 24 percent of 548 federal managers believe cloud computing is of high quality with just 15 percent saying they used it regularly. In contrast when asked about specific cloud-based services, nearly 80 percent of those polled felt digital records and enterprise content management systems were high quality systems.
Dana Grinshpan, the GBC's Research Manager said the dichotomy between these answers showed an access and education gap among users. She thinks that end users within business units, or (in this case) US government departments may not yet know what cloud computing is, or even lack access to these systems.
Hurdles to adoption remain. CIF cites security as one bugbear with almost 90 percent of public sector respondents and 78 percent of those from the private sector concerned about data security when using cloud-based services.
Other fears include that of losing IT control, supplier lock-in, data sovereignty and cost of migration.
However ignorance at the power of the tools available within organisations and the lack of agreed standards to provide data sovereignty and control are rapidly becoming problems the industry must address as it attempts to enter the mainstream of enterprise existence.
That’s a challenge France Telecom’s Core Network & Cloud Standards Manager in Orange Labs, Jamil Chawki, is attempting to address as Chair of a cloud-focused working party for the ITU.
“The real problem is that standards are essential to enuring interoperability between providers and comprehensive interface standards are lacking for interoperabilty between cloud platforms built by different providers,” says Chawki.
As the remit of cloud services moves away from email and “dumb” data storage toward further deployment of interconnected business systems, switched-on technology purchasers are becoming more savvy about what these systems can do for them.
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Jon Evans is highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men’s interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.