We've all seen the staggering predictions for cloud growth over the next several years, but it's important to remember that the cloud still represents only a small part of overall information-technology (IT) spending by businesses.
Researchers at Gartner found in a recent survey that only a little more than one-third (38 percent) of all organizations use cloud services; yet four in five (80 percent) said they intend to use cloud services in some form over the next year. That includes 55 percent of the organizations that aren't doing so today.
Gartner surveyed more than 650 businesses across nine countries to understand end-user organizations' use of external service providers for IT services. The firm wanted to better understand how businesses are shifting from the use of traditional technology products to new technology delivered via the cloud.
"Given that the use of cloud services currently constitutes only a very small part of the vast enterprise IT market, strategic planners should not make the mistake of taking current cloud use cases to be predictors of future cloud use," said Gregor Petri, research director at Gartner. "Cloud computing is set to have a considerable impact on business in the future which is reflected in the survey finding that around 60 percent of organizations plan increased investment over the next two years to five years, while only 6 percent plan to decrease investments in cloud services."
Gartner says three key factors will significantly impact enterprise cloud use in the near to midterm future. The first is that the road to increased cloud usage will be through tactical business solutions addressing specific problems, not through broad, strategic infrastructure replacements. Today's cloud market is still very much formed by early adopters and innovators addressing specific use cases. Market adoption of high-tech services and solutions typically does not develop from early adopters to the majority market in a straight line, and also for cloud computing we will see distinct differences in how the next wave of buyers will adopt new solutions, Petri said.
Second is the reality that the business impact of cloud services increases as they continue to move up the cloud-services value chain, from infrastructure services to business process services.
The final factor impacting enterprise cloud use is that the introduction of cloud solutions will lead to a more diverse solution portfolio with widely varying implementation and migration timelines, Gartner said. Individual applications can be rehosted to run on IaaS, recoded or recompiled to run on PaaS, replaced with corresponding SaaS applications or the business process can be resourced altogether. The life cycle of these cloud services can vary from months to decades with implementation timelines being impacted by several factors including the availability of alternatives, the degree of business criticality, and the complexity of the workloads.
Cloud-services providers should also remember that highly critical and complex applications may actually be the first to be moved to cloud computing, especially if those applications are broadly used. This wide variety of timelines and approaches leads to a complex reality, with many different resource requirements, benefits profiles and potential outcomes, all needing to be individually planned, managed and monitored. This, in turn, makes cloud computing a quickly developing field with many unknowns and uncertainties and little shortcuts of silver bullets, Gartner noted.
Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.