Cloud Causing IT Disruption, Becoming More Accessible for SMBs, Channel Partners

Everyone knows that cloud computing is playing an increasingly important role in IT operations, but that very same growth is bringing significant change and disruption for users, IT staffs and their technology providers.

That’s one finding in new research released today by CompTIA, the nonprofit IT industry association. The group’s “Third Annual Trends in Cloud Computing” study shows that the market for cloud solutions is robust, with the number of organizations using cloud resources up for the third straight year. More than eight in 10 companies now use some form of cloud solution, and more than half plan to increase cloud investments by 10 percent or more in 2012.

The vast majority of survey respondents see white, puffy clouds rather than rainclouds: The research shows that 85 percent feel more positive about cloud computing than they did last year, compared to 72 percent in 2011.This popularity is driving both IT and business staff to experiment with cloud options and to re-examine the role and functions of IT, CompTIA said.
Internal IT departments also are on the edge of major transformation,” said Seth Robinson, director, technology analysis, CompTIA. The option for cloud solutions for various parts of the computing stack is opening the doors for IT professionals to perform new tasks, or at least perform old tasks in new ways. Its also creating new job roles and functions to more tightly integrate IT teams with lines of business.”

Though just one in five companies currently contracts with an outside firm for cloud transitions, this may change, especially as micro and small businesses explore more complex uses of cloud, the study found. These firms have used outside companies less than medium and large businesses, but they will have a need for more expertise as their cloud usage increases.

The CompTIA study also shows that IT channel companies are poised to step up their involvement with the cloud. In fact, the No. 1 catalyst channel firms cite as driving their entrance into cloud solutions is to provide their customers with access to new opportunities and capabilities not previously available to them.

This is one of the truly disruptive aspects of the cloud model,” said Carolyn April, director, industry analysis, CompTIA. Advanced software for analytics, unified communications, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and other sophisticated technology solutions were often out of the price range or skill set of many businesses. With cloud-based solutions and delivery and either set monthly pricing or a pay-as-you-go model, these technologies come within the financial reach of even the smallest of small businesses.”

For channel firms, this reality provides a major selling point. Three-quarters of the largest channel firms cite expanding customer opportunity as a major driver behind adopting cloud, CompTIA said. Technology vendors also are having an influence on their channel partners. More than half of larger channel firms say that vendor demand for them to add cloud to their business portfolio was a motivating factor.

But channel companies cannot be content to simply resell a vendors cloud wares,” April said. Its imperative that they build consultative practices that offer services such as integration, architectural assessments, monitoring and management.”

Over the next 12 months, 42 percent of channel firms expect the cloud portion of their business to grow significantly by 15 percent or more. In 2011, 24 percent of companies expected that level of growth. The study also finds that nearly half of channel firms report either being at their targeted profitability with their cloud business today, or expect to be there in six months or less.

The research is based on separate online surveys of 500 IT and business professionals in the United States involved in IT decision making; and 400 IT firms. Both surveys were conducted in April 2012.

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