A cloud adoption survey of just over 200 senior IT types across Europe by Brocade threw up some eye-catching findings, but it also raised a number of questions about the various definitions of cloud computing.
The research shows that 60% of enterprises expect to have started the planning and migration to what Brocade called, "a distributed – or cloud – computing model" within the next two years. I’m not sure I agree a distributed model is a cloud model, and it’s not clear whether respondents were entirely clear about such definitions either. Unfortunately, for this group of larger enterprises, Brocade did not differentiate between so-called ‘private clouds’ and ‘public clouds’ like Google, Amazon or Microsoft Azure.
Speaking to CBR, Brocade’s Paul Philips, Regional Director UK and Ireland, said he believes most of these large enterprises will be looking first to ‘private clouds’ – a somewhat nebulous term in our view used to describe a mixture of virtualisation, consolidation and perhaps convergence to ‘cloud-enable’ existing internal IT systems.
Think of it as the IT department becoming a kind of mini cloud provider to the business (some would rightly claim that they already are, without ever having called ‘IT as a service’ a ‘private cloud’ until now). But the research didn’t drill down far enough for larger enterprises to know who’s opting for private clouds and who for public.
It did, though, for the SME segment. In that group, 42% said they expect to "move to the cloud" within two years, while of those, 63% said they will opt for a "hosted" or ‘public cloud’.
It’s a little tricky to gauge what the remaining 58% meant by a "move to the cloud" – it could mean they are planning on adopting virtualisation, or adopting web-based applications that they host internally, or something else we can’t guess at.
And why were only 42% of SMEs planning a move to the cloud in two years, when 60% of all enterprises expect to have started migration in the same time-frame? "Our research found that people are a little more cautious in the SME market than at larger enterprises," said Phillips. "Why? I think they are still hesitant about security, and I think people are a little more cautious in the SME market than at larger enterprises."
"I think you can draw some analogies back to the whole ASP, outsourcing, dot-com trend," Phillips continued. "Even then, people wanted to retain their data. So I can understand nervousness about security. But cloud is definitely going to happen; it’s a question of when, not if."
Phillips said that the industry needs to do a better job of educating organisations about the benefits of cloud computing, especially in the SME space.
Drivers for adopting cloud were considered to be reducing cost (30%), improving business efficiency (21%) and enhancing business agility (16%).
It’s clear why Brocade is so interested in cloud computing (especially private clouds) – it recently made a series of announcements around networking gear and management technologies designed for the rigours of virtualised environments. It’s not going to become a cloud provider to rival Microsoft Azure, but it wants to be the networking supplier of choice to companies adopting private clouds, or service providers providing public cloud capacity to their customers.
That’s all well and good, but I’m also aware from talking to hundreds of senior UK IT decision-makers at CBR Dining Clubs that you get a different definition of private and public clouds from almost everyone you ask. Which does make analysing cloud surveys somewhat challenging. As Phillips conceded, when it comes to the varying definitions, "clouds are cloudy".