In this presidential election year, consumers and business people alike may claim that the candidates and their respective followers may have their head in the clouds when it comes to real issues. However, in the IT world, spending more time in the clouds – both public and private – is fast becoming an accepted norm among business of all sizes that want to remain competitive.
The public cloud services market – which includes everything from cloud-based services that are geared for your mobile devices to advanced software-as-a-service applications – is expected to grow by nearly 20%, according to market researcher Gartner, Inc. This includes business process as a service as well as infrastructure a service – which is the distinction between applications and framework. Worldwide spending on public IT cloud services is expected to surpass $40 billion by the end of this year, and nudge the $100 billion mark by 2016, says International Data Corp. (IDC), another market forecaster.
What all of this activity in the cloud means is that the IT industry is in the middle of a massive transformation that will drive growth over the next few years, notes IDC analyst Frank Gens. In fact, in 10 year, cloud services and activities will account for up to 80% of the IT industry’s growth, he points out. The main IT areas that will be impacted include applications, system infrastructure software, platform as a service (PaaS), servers, and basic storage, says IDC.
Major manufacturers, like Microsoft, have already switched gears and are shifting some of their more serious business applications to the cloud to allow users to access applications and data anytime, anywhere and on any type of device. Microsoft, for example, has revamped its Office suite and such well-used application as Outlook and SharePoint to function and be accessible via the cloud. Meanwhile, wide area network (WAN) optimization companies like Riverbed and application service providers such as SAP, Inc. are focusing on expanding bandwidth and accelerating access speeds over the Internet to accommodate the rapidly increasing use of cloud-based business applications worldwide.
Beyond the Silver Linings
Discount all the excitement surrounding cloud-based services and activities, however, and there are some real issues and serious concerns that may be a roadblock to cloud deployments. These include security, compliance and cloud applications scalability. In fact, a large number of IT executives are skeptical of the whole cloud concept and reluctant to roll out any initiatives until the benefits justify the time and money spent on applications migration.
The results of a survey conducted this year by TechTarget, TechnologyGuide’s parent company, reveal that while little more than 60% of the 1,497 executives polled use or plan on using cloud services, a significant number of the IT executives not in the cloud have no immediate interest in going that route. In fact, nearly half of those not using cloud-based apps and services admit there are absolutely no cloud plans in their foreseeable future. A large number of the IT execs questioned who are anti-cloud say they have invested enough in IT services and there just aren’t enough tangible benefits to justify a migration. Many also cite security risks as a reason for cloud avoidance, as well as a real or imagined lack of control since the apps and the data don’t reside behind the safety of a company’s firewall, notes an article presenting the survey results on SearchCloudComputing.com, another TechTarget property.
Despite concerns, however, a lot of companies – big and small – are considering cloud-based alternatives because of the cost savings – especially as the recession lingers and IT budgets are stretched. Cloud services and applications can be easily implemented, scaled and operated at a fraction of the cost of buying systems and software and doing it yourself, say the experts. There are also other benefits gained in labor, real estate and power savings – all of which are compelling reasons to at least experiment in the cloud.
Judy Jefferson is a Boston-based technology writer.