Survey shows IT still focused on the wrong issues about cloud

Studies debate the wrong questions about why companies adopt the cloud

GigaOm and The451 Group released a survey this week ostensibly revealing changes in the reason most companies adopt cloud computing.

Until recently most surveys have shown companies adopt cloud or SAAS-based systems primarily because it would cost more or scale less to accomplish the same things themselves.

The conclusion of the survey of 413 vendor- and end-user company representatives was that scalability and cost are still the top drivers for companies adopting cloud computing.

Agility and innovation are moving up fast among companies that see cloud and SAAS as a way to add capabilities quickly and easily. But the whole industry is still too immature for customers to rely on that, the survey found.

Forty percent of respondents said they're experimenting with the cloud; 26 percent are waiting until the market matures before adopting a cloud strategy.

More than half of respondents (55 percent) though cloud had a lower TCO than alternative approaches; 39 percent thought cloud would change the level of complexity in their environments.

Despite GigaOm's results, and other surveys highlighting cost as a leading driver for cloud, studies that focus on the experience of cloud customers generally show the cost savings are often more in customers' minds than in their budget reports.

Symantec's global survey of 3,700 cloud and virtualization customers, for example, found widespread disappointment in both the performance and cost savings respondents got from cloud systems.

Private and public cloud systems in particular, fell 32 percent below performance and cost goals set by the companies buying them.

An April survey from the U.K.'s Cloud Industry Forum found the majority of cloud users saying flexibility is the best reason to start cloud projects, though cost was a top driver in companies that were expanding existing cloud implementations.

Even SMBs, which flocked to the cloud to save money and get better systems than they could build themselves, are starting to turn away from it to save money and to focus on more deeply integrating internal back-office and front-office applications, according to a June survey from IT integrator Cambridge Online systems.

CFOs – usually the first to support anything that will save money if they can do it without hog-tying some part of the business – are more concerned about security than they are eager to adopt the cloud, according to a January SunGard survey.

Almost three quarters of CFOs would like to jettison their data centers, but only a quarter expect to do it within five years.

Most are happy to wait until cloud providers can show a long record of good security and high availability, rather than jump at something potentially risky, even for good ROI projections, the survey found.

Almost half of companies are investing in cloud systems according to a CIO survey published this month. Many are doing it to get more bang for the same buck; others are going for the agility of new systems on new platforms, but aren't putting anything mission-critical in the cloud until it's proven itself.

Of course, it's possible they don't know how much they rely on the cloud already.

A recent Forrester survey showed 87 percent of business-unit managers thought good technology is the key to their company's success, but that 65 percent hold out part of their budgets specifically to buy IT services without having to go through IT.

That shows three things:

  1. That business units have different priorities for IT and different criteria for approving them than IT;
  2. Business units are willing to pay extra to get what they need on their own terms;
  3. SAAS and the cloud have democratized enterprise technology to the point that business managers with a credit card can take a big slice of responsibility off IT's plate while the CIO is debating cost vs. scalability vs. flexiblity vs. platform maturity.

The end result is that it doesn't matter why IT people decide to adopt or integrate the cloud into traditional IT. End users want it and are buying it with or without IT's permission.

If IT isn't there to help them do it safely and effectively, it's the IT bosses who will be out on their ears – not the business managers or cloud providers, no matter what anyone says about cost.

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