Cloud & Services

Cloud adoption growing, but how big depends on who you ask

Is cloud computing really catching on in the enterprise? Well, that depends on who you talk to, recent surveys have found.

RightScale, a company that acts as a broker between end users and public cloud service providers, released the most recent results of its annual State of the Cloud report and found that about 75 percent of respondents surveyed were using the cloud in some capacity.

CEO Michael Crandell says his company's evidence shows users are becoming more comfortable using the cloud.

About a year and a half ago, pundits spoke about the technology being in an adolescent stage, he says, adding, "We're getting to see what the cloud looks like when it grows up now and becomes a young adult."

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But 70 percent of organizations using the cloud seems like a lot to some people, such as Forrester Research cloud guru James Staten.

A Forrester developers survey found quite different results from RightScale, in fact just about the opposite: 70 percent of developers surveyed had not used cloud computing in an official capacity at their business.

What's the deal?

The devil's in the details, and for one, it depends on who you talk to. The RightScale survey of more than 600 IT workers came from a community to people that had somehow, some way interacted with RightSacle in the past -- they had registered on the company's website, dropped a business card in a bowl at a trade show, or are a customer (although RightScale says only 30 percent of respondents were customers). The firm's VP of Marketing Kim Weins says respondents to RightScale's survey admittedly have some "affinity" to cloud computing.

Forrester, on the other hand, surveyed developers, not necessarily just those who would be more likely in the cloud, and the results differed significantly.

So then, where are we really in the cloud adoption cycle?

Staten, the Forrester analyst, says it's still early to make a judgment. The cloud is growing up and businesses are becoming more comfortable using it, even if it is limited use cases for most businesses.

"The technologies are maturing faster than the customer base, which means we should expect to see an acceleration in developer use of cloud in the next five years," Staten says, adding that vendors licking their chops about a huge uptake in cloud usage shouldn't expect a "hockey stick" curve of adoption, though. "Enterprises move way slower than any of us would like."

Virtustream, another provider of both public and private platforms for building clouds, did its own survey with research firm Neovise and found results closer to Forrester's than RightScale's. Of 822 IT professionals Neovise surveyed, 37 percent were found to use public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

Both the Virtustream/Neovise and RightScale surveys found that as people use the cloud more, they get more comfortable with it and expand their usage.

The users are the believers, the non-users are the skeptics, Crandell says. A whopping 77 percent of respondents to the RightScale survey said they use more than one cloud, be it a hybrid model that would include both a public cloud and an internal private cloud, or multiple public clouds.

Paul Burns, the Neovise analyst who conducted the survey for Virtustream, reported similar results, with 74 percent of respondents using multiple clouds.

"The benefits of cloud computing grow with increased usage," Crandell says. "It seems to make sense: the more you use it, the better you get with it."

As another example, in last year's RightScale survey, 33 percent of respondents noted that security was their top concern with using the cloud; this year, that dropped almost in half to 18 percent listing security as their top concern. Crandell says that points to an increased focus public cloud providers have put on security, such as leading providers like Amazon Web Services and Terremark, which is owned by Verizon, being certified for use by the federal government and by healthcare privacy standards.

So will cloud be ubiquitous?

Staten, the Forrester researcher, says we'll never get to the point where every developer is using the cloud. Some don't have the skills or the motivation or their jobs just will not require it.

"But we do expect to get to the point where nearly every company is using cloud platforms to some degree," Staten says. "The economic and agile benefits are just too compelling."

Network World senior writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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