What used to be a bold prediction — cloud-based computing will have a significant impact on the technology infrastructure designs of the future — is now simply conventional wisdom. IT has the seen the future, and there’s no going back.
But what’s the right way to go forward? I spent some time this week going over some results from The 2011 Future of Cloud Computing Survey, a study conducted by North Bridge, GigaOM Pro, and 451 Group as part of the Structure Conference in San Francisco. It reached 417 respondents, including CEOs, C-level executives, and directors. Sixty eight percent identified themselves as in small businesses. I may not be able to predict the future, but the survey tried to, and the results will be especially interesting to anyone working in IT in businesses both large and small.
First of all, only 24 percent say they’re using cloud technologies in anything beyond an experimental mode today, and 10 percent say they will never use it because of the risks. That leaves 66 percent of the group taking their time and going slow. Is that what you’re doing? It’s Okay. You have some time… not much, but some.
What’s attractive about the cloud? Agility, scalability and potential cost savings, just as you’ve been hearing. But what will drive cloud adoption five years from now? The list includes those three things but also innovation and mobility. In other words, IT is most likely to see cloud technology as an enabler of a more mobile workforce — which makes good sense — and as a low-cost platform for application experimentation. A majority also say that in the future, they’ll be most likely to implement hybrid clouds, a blend of public and private cloud capabilities.
As you already know, the top negative perception of the cloud is security, followed by fears of interoperability problems and vendor lock-in. There’s really no getting around that security question today. IT is holding fast to its fear that when it’s not totally in control of the hardware, the software, the storage and the security that surrounds everything, something is bound to go wrong. Cloud vendors clearly have their work cut out for them on this front.
Mixed emotions among the IT crowd are rampant. Fifty seven 57 percent believe that cloud technologies ultimately deliver a lower total cost of ownership, but at this stage of the game, that number should be higher. Perhaps IT doesn’t want to admit that well-designed cloud apps require less IT labor and can lead to productivity through job cuts. Actually, 42 percent believe that cloud computing will have no impact on hiring, and 32 percent believe it will actually lead to more hiring. Is that wishful thinking?
IT also can’t decide if the cloud makes for more complex IT environments or less complex environments. It’s an even split. Cloud vendors would say less complex, of course, but again, if complexity protects jobs, then maybe IT doesn’t want to believe that things could actually get easier for their department.
So is your job safe? Survey respondents picked the most likely sectors to be most disrupted by the cloud in the next five years are development tools, office productivity, connectivity apps, server virtualization, operating systems, mobile apps, management tools and business intelligence. If any of those are your specialty, you’d be well-advised to start your cloud experiments sooner rather than later.
Ultimately, 57 percent of respondents say that 75 percent of their computing will be in the cloud in five years. That’s a high number from a survey pool that seems a little skeptical so far. It’s as if they see the future, they don’t necessarily like the way it looks, but they know it’s utterly unavoidable. How about you?