In short, it means the cloud is coming, but not all clouds are the same.
A series of recent studies back this up. IDG Research, for example, reports that fully three quarters of businesses around the world plan to deploy enterprise-grade cloud technology over the next five years. The survey also found that more than a quarter of them are directing their cloud strategies from the front office, rather than through traditional IT channels, and that more than half are still unclear as to what an optimal cloud solution is for their particular business.
That's probably why many firms are experimenting with the private cloud first. Safely ensconced within the corporate firewall, private clouds offer the ability to try out a range of configurations and service options before committing to a public system. The Independent Oracle Users Group, for example, found private cloud penetration approaching 30 percent among its 20,000 members, with many reporting new Platform as a Service (PaaS) capabilities to handle database and middleware responsibilities. Meanwhile, Forrester Research reports that a quarter of U.S. and European enterprises have placed private cloud investment on their "high" or "critical" priority lists for the coming year.
Clearly, public, private and hybrid cloud technology is transitioning from the awareness and proof-of-concept phase into the deployment phase, says Rahul Backshi, vice president of product management for managed services at SunGard Availability Services. He cites data from The Yankee Group that indicates 24 percent of organizations with some cloud experience are already deploying IaaS platforms with another 37 percent planning to do so over the next two years. He says once the ROI of cloud technology becomes well-known, market penetration will move at an alarming rate.
Still, the cloud industry in general needs to overcome some major trust issues for that to happen. A new poll of LinkedIn's CIO group by cloud provider Savvis revealed significant concerns over data loss, security and information access, with only 21 percent saying they are confident the cloud will be able to deliver. On the plus side, there was little doubt that the cloud would improve flexibility, enhance innovation and increase competitive advantage.
Despite all this activity in the cloud, traditional enterprise infrastructure is not going anywhere soon. That means enterprises will face more than just deploying new cloud services -- they also have a major integration challenge to ensure data can traverse both architectures with relative ease.
The cloud may offer unheard-of levels of flexibility and scalability, but it will be of only limited use if it can't negotiate existing data infrastructure.