When faced with uncertainty, most people will stick close to what they know.
The same goes for the enterprise. As the cloud gets ever closer to the tipping point between the data infrastructure of old and the emerging distributed environment of tomorrow, many organizations are sticking with the vendors they know and love to see them through.
According to 451 Research, IBM ranks as the most preferred cloud partner in a survey of more than 2,000 enterprise executives. The company drew top marks from 18 percent of the field, followed by Microsoft at 11 percent. Meanwhile, Amazon came in third with just 6 percent of the vote, which, according to one IBM executive, is reflective of the split that is taking place in the cloud market in which enterprises are increasingly gravitating toward higher-end offerings rather than the bulk compute/storage resources favored by consumers.
Even with a familiar face in your corner, many organizations are turning to outside experts to handle the trickier aspects of cloud computing like integration and support for emerging collaboration and social media applications. Companies like Cloud Sherpas are drawing top-end enterprise clients by offering medium- and long-term roadmaps for organizations looking to coordinate, say, Salesforce and Google Cloud deployments. As company CEO David Northington tells Diginomica, it’s a matter of ensuring that clients are getting the most for their cloud spend and avoiding single-function deployments that don’t fit with a broader cloud strategy.
Telecommunications firms are also leveraging their name-brand recognition to draw enterprise cloud activity. BT, the former British Telecom, recently launched a “Cloud of Clouds” initiative aimed at providing enterprise access to a full suite of third-party applications and services and then tying them directly to private cloud offerings. With a global communications network at its disposal, BT says it can provide a more thorough and balanced approach than Cisco, HP and other IT vendors who are building cloud integration platforms of their own. The company has already lined up services from Amazon, Microsoft and even Cisco and HP under its Cloud Management System, and is expected to supplement the line-up in the weeks to come.
Established IT vendors should not take the enterprise for granted, however. As the cloud, and abstract computing environments in general, replace the direct relationships among hardware, middleware, applications and data, the ability to try out new products and services becomes dramatically less burdensome. Already, top companies like PayPal are willing to forgo a solid private cloud partner like VMware for the uncertainty of emerging platforms like OpenStack, which the company says provides a higher degree of flexibility than a proprietary system. Unlike many smaller enterprises, however, PayPal has the means to support its own development and customization of an open source solution, so the calculus between a community-based vs. vendor-driven solution will change with the size and economic clout of the cloud user.
And it is important to note that all of this is happening within the wider trend of enterprises shedding responsibility for core infrastructure in favor of a more utility-style approach. This frees up resources for more revenue-generating activities while at the same time enabling greater IT capability and flexibility in the drive to meet new challenges and capitalize on emerging market opportunities.
So in the end, traditional enterprise vendors are in the same boat as the enterprises they serve: having to navigate the often risky shoals between past, present and future.
When the winds pick up and the clouds get dark, it’s nice to have an old friend by your side, but it is also vital to have someone who knows the way to calmer waters.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.