Cloud

AWS and Microsoft Azure at the center of IT's most exciting change in decades

Though AWS has an early, commanding lead in cloud infrastructure, CIOs anticipate a 'momentous change of guard' driven by public cloud.

Image: iStockphoto/cherezoff

In today's trillion-dollar enterprise IT landscape, the public cloud already claims 16.2% of all enterprise workloads, according to a new JP Morgan CIO survey. CIOs expect that percentage to nearly triple within the next five years, however, sending it soaring to 40.3% of all workloads, and leaving the existing IT vendor hierarchy in significant disarray.

Indeed, as the JP Morgan report authors conclude, this "monumental architectural shift" to public cloud "shows no signs of abating and is likely to create a major ripple effect across the entire technology landscape."

What's perhaps most interesting, however, is who the CIOs expect to crown as cloud royalty. The answer, as the pulp-news websites routinely hint, may surprise you.

Who's on first?

When asked, "Which IT mega-vendor will be most critical and indispensable to your organization's IT environment in the future, and why?," Amazon Web Services, far and away today's market share leader, doesn't sit atop the heap:

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Amazon, which dwarfs its cloud peers in terms of revenue—$8 billion compared to Microsoft's $1.1 billion or Google's $500 million, by Morgan Stanley estimates—is a distant second to Microsoft. Clearly, AWS dominance today doesn't translate into dominance of CIO affections tomorrow.

Or does it?

SEE Microsoft Azure doubles its lead over Oracle, IBM (TechRepublic)

CIOs have long doted on Microsoft and have cut it a lot of slack as it has figured out Azure. In 2013, a Piper Jaffray survey found that 45% of CIOs picked Microsoft as their "most important vendor," but back then few would have pinned their cloud hopes on the Redmond giant.

Two years later, however, a 2015 Piper Jaffray survey of CIOs' cloud preferences uncovered a preference for AWS (35%), which wasn't surprising, compared to Microsoft Azure in second (21%), which perhaps was.

And yet, there is more to this story.

From zero to hero

After all, another way to read the data is that AWS didn't even exist on the CIO radar in 2013 when Piper Jaffray ran its survey. Oracle? Of course. HP? Yes. Even Apple made the list. But, Amazon? Come on. It's a bookseller!

In 2016, it's clear that AWS is an enterprise force, but it's less clear that the current generation of CIOs are prepared. Their developers, yes. But the CIO? Maybe. Arguably, most CIOs probably haven't yet come to grips with the prospect of introducing a new "megavendor" into the mix.

SEE The 3 reasons why Azure and cloud are the heart of the new Microsoft (TechRepublic)

Here's what JP Morgan Research has to say:

First, AWS's appearance in the number two position signals a potentially momentous changing of the guard...and is telling of its ROI, appeal to and influence of IT professionals. AWS's ranking sends a strong indication that threats to traditional, on-premise IT infrastructure vendors are serious.

In support of this contention, the report authors quote CIO respondents who characterize AWS as "...a transformative power whose impacts will be felt in technology, process, development, etc." and indicate that "a lot of IT assets will be migrating to AWS over the next 12 months or so."

All of which is true of AWS, but also increasingly true of Microsoft Azure. I suspect the same survey next year will show dramatic increases in CIO mindshare (even as it continues to hoard wallet-share), with Microsoft Azure holding firm with CIO affections and gaining revenue faster than everyone except AWS. Meanwhile, when JP Morgan Research asked these same CIOs which vendors would lose share to AWS and Microsoft Azure, 26% picked IBM, 15% chose Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, and 14.5% selected Oracle.

This all signals a significant changing of the enterprise guard, with Amazon crashing the party and Microsoft solidifying its already-strong relationships with CIOs, as pretty much everyone else loses out. It's the most exciting change enterprise IT has seen in decades. Grab your popcorn.

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About Matt Asay

Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.

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