While Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure measure cloud revenues in the billions, the more interesting metric of cloud success is counted in the millions.

According to a new Evans Data survey, there are nearly 5 million developers using cloud as a development platform, a number projected to nearly triple within the next 12 months. In fact, a mere 4.8 million don’t have any plans to use the cloud at all.

Presumably, this is because they’re unemployed… or soon will be.

With 14.2 million developers working on cloud platforms within the next 12 months, the race is on to curry favor with them. After all, the platform that attracts the most developers wins.

The importance of developers

By now, Redmonk’s contention that “developers are the new kingmakers” shouldn’t be controversial. It should be received wisdom.

As former Netflix cloud chief (and current Battery VC) Adrian Cockcroft said, “Dollars of revenue is a backwards looking metric. Developer adoption is a forward looking metric.”

Developers are the ones who will build your company’s next big thing. They’re the ones sidestepping traditional IT to get stuff done. They also are the ones whose creativity will have a far bigger impact on your company’s top and bottom lines than most anything else.

This developer has gone to (cloud) heaven

Given the rising importance of developers, enterprises need to learn to get out of their way. Of course, if we look at shadow IT numbers, developers are already adept at evading burdensome IT or procurement policies. By some estimates, 83% of enterprises can point to unauthorized cloud adoption within their ranks.

Not all of that is being driven by their developers, but much of it is. After all, as Infochimps’ Flip Kromer calculates, Amazon’s “EC2 means anyone with a $10 bill can rent a 10-machine cluster with 1 TB of distributed storage for 8 hours.” This gives developers broad freedom to build their company’s future, with or without permission.

But this isn’t enough.

One of the reasons Google and Facebook are able to hire great developers has nothing to do with generous pay and everything to do with generous ambition. Developers want to work on hard problems. They want to be challenged, as VisionMobile survey data suggests.

The power of cloud convenience

What they absolutely don’t want, however, is to be challenged by ancient policies that slow or block public cloud adoption. It’s no secret that CIOs, to the extent they grok cloud at all, prefer the fantasy that they can placate their developers with private clouds.

Indeed, a recent survey shows governance and security as top-of-mind for this crowd and the primary reasons they’re trying to fight public cloud gravity.

The CIO, however, is generally the last to know when it comes to developer preferences. Developers embraced open source nearly a decade before CIOs grew comfortable with it, and the same is happening with cloud. Gartner data shows that public cloud virtual machines (VMs) are growing at a 20x clip, while private cloud VMs are growing at just 3x.

This growth is being driven by developers who appreciate the convenience of public cloud computing, something Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady called out years ago.

Microsoft, Amazon, and Google all understand this, and they’re doing everything possible to make their platforms appealing to developers. AWS, for example, offers sophisticated developer tools, forums, documentation, and a wealth of products, the pricing for which keeps getting cut on a regular basis.

This developer focus has cemented Amazon’s cloud lead, but Microsoft and Google, in particular, are also spreading the developer gospel.

They must. There are 14.2 million developers up for grabs, and the cloud platform that makes itself the most convenient and powerful for their needs is going to collect the spoils of cloud victory for many, many years.