The cloud is the latest juggernaut to sweep the enterprise IT industry, and if you ask most experts, the expectation is that the entire data universe will one day reside on distributed virtual architecture.
At the moment, however, the vision has not been completely sold to the people who build and maintain enterprise corporate environments.
According to new data from 451 Research at the behest of Microsoft, more than 45 percent of IT executives consider their organizations to be beyond the pilot phase of cloud computing, with at least half of that group saying they are “heavy” cloud users. However, only 6 percent have labeled the cloud as the default platform for new applications, while only 18 percent turn to the cloud regularly for new projects. All of this suggests that while the enterprise has embraced the cloud with open arms, the vast majority are using it for low-value or non-critical functions – hardly the new data paradigm that has been touted so far.
Like statistics, however, surveys can be viewed in any number of ways, depending on the viewer’s objectives. For example, a company like Oracle, which was relatively late to embrace cloud products and services, isn’t really interested in how steeped the enterprise becomes in cloud computing, just as long as there is a market to leverage. This is why it takes heart in research suggesting that more than half of all organizations view the cloud as important or very important in meeting business objectives, even if much of the activity so far has gone toward streamlining existing data operations rather than developing new tools and strategies.
It is also possible that this penchant to view the cloud as an answer to today’s problems instead of a means to pursue tomorrow’s opportunities is merely temporary – the calm before the coming digital storm. Research and Markets has noted that as the enterprise becomes more distributed, it will increasingly turn to cloud solutions as a matter of course, particularly as market forces such as the rise of collaboration software and the demands of Big Data point out the deficiencies of repurposing legacy infrastructure to the new data environment.
Ultimately, this may turn out to be a distinction without a difference. As refresh cycles wind their way through legacy infrastructure, it will most likely become more cloud-like itself, allowing the enterprise to pick and choose from a variety of internal and external resources to suit the application at hand. In this world, the line between the cloud and the local data center is extremely thin, as much of the data and application load navigates a constantly shifting miasma of virtual and physical architectures. It may even become trite to consider oneself “on the cloud” at all because all digital infrastructure will encompass cloud-based resources in some fashion.
As I mentioned earlier, though, these types of scenarios are best left to the future. In the here and now, organizations are looking for solutions that solve immediate problems, the majority of which are driven by cost and efficiency factors that the cloud is uniquely suited to address.
And in this way, the cloud is following the same acceptance trajectory as countless other developments, such as railroads, automobiles and radio/television: First provide a more efficient, effective way to achieve today’s goals, and then allow users to set new goals on their own.