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How big is cloud's impact? Depends on who's asking

Not surprisingly, vendor surveys point to higher adoption than independent researchers

By , Network World
April 26, 2013 10:58 AM ET

Network World - 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 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% of respondents surveyed were using the cloud in some capacity.

CEO Michael Crandell says his company's evidence shows the 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: "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% 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% of developers surveyed had not used cloud computing in an official capacity at their business.

We're getting to see what the cloud looks like when it grows up now and becomes a young adult."

What gives with the difference? 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% 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 days. 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% 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% 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% 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."

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