Enterprises to cloud: Ready or not, here we come

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The number of diehards who resist the notion of running business apps in the cloud is dwindling. More than a third of end users polled recently feel that the cloud is safe for mission-critical applications, according to new research.

The 2012 Future of Cloud Survey, sponsored by North Bridge Venture Partners, shows acceptance of cloud computing for important business workloads is growing — the overall percentage of respondents feeling comfortable with this notion was actually 50 percent, but that figure included tech vendors as well as end users and since most vendors have a vested interest in cloud computing, that may skew the numbers. According to last year’s survey, in which North Bridge did not separate out the two types of respondents, just 13 percent of the aggregate respondents were comfortable with the cloud model.

This is considerable progress in a year, said Michael Skok, general partner with North Bridge.  A whopping 57 percent of respondents cited desire for scalability as their chief motivation to go to cloud.

Other takeaways:

  • Software as a Service as exemplified by offerings like Salesforce.com remains the top type of cloud investment, cited by 82 percent of respondents saying they use SaaS today and 88 percent expecting to use it in 5 years.
  • Platform as a Service is expected to grow as a category in the next 5 years with PaaS in use by 40 percent of companies now, expected to grow to 72 percent in that period.
  • Infrastructure as a Service is in use by 51 percent of respondents now, with 61 percent expected to use IaaS in 5 years.
  • Security concerns still hamper cloud adoption with 55 percent of respondents citing concerns over cloud security.

While the survey itself did not break out public, private and hybrid cloud models specifically, Skok said business users are getting comfortable with putting more workloads and data into public cloud.  “There is growing familiarity and trust of public cloud because it’s been around long enough and companies have had time to move from test and dev to proof of concept to production deployments,” Skok said.

Cloud security concerns persist

Skok also acknowledged that worry over data security and data sovereignty continue to dog wider adoption, but argued that those issues will mitigate over time. “If you look back to the late 90s, people said they’d never use their credit cards on the Internet to buy things. well, look what happened there.” he said.

Other third-party research backs up these results.  About a quarter of IT execs surveyed by InformationWeek said they plan to use public cloud in a major project this year, compared to 11 percent who run public cloud services now. And JD Power’s 2012 Business Data Satisfaction Study released last month, found that 18 percent of businesses surveyed now use hosted and cloud-based services up from 12 percent a year ago.

Having said that there are still doubts about the cloud. “Look, there will be stuff that will never go to the public cloud, but companies will continue to use the cloud to save money on non-critical compute loads and storage and use those cost savings to help fund internal IT for the truly mission critical stuff, said Joe Coyle, CTO of Capgemini’s North American unit.

Skok said the research also showed the convergence of a few key technologies gaining critical mass in the cloud, in what North Bridge is calling “cloud formations.”

“Nineteen percent of those surveyed said big data and analytics is a key area. When everything become available in the cloud, suddenly every transaction and every click is available for analysis — that is one of the cloud formations,” Skok  said. Others include e-commerce and payments; media and entertainment; social collaboration; and mobile/location.

Expect more discussion of cloud adoption and the remaining impediments to it at this week’s GigaOM Structure event.

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