From views on security to private clouds, an international survey of datacentre managers has thrown up some intriguing results, says Clive Longbottom.

Quocirca recently completed a research project for Oracle that solicited 919 datacentre managers’ views on cloud computing.

Overall, the findings showed there was a positive view of cloud, with just under half stating that cloud would be either an important part of their future IT platform or a complete game-changer.

However, 16 per cent stated that cloud would have no part in their organisation’s future at all, or dismissed cloud as a passing fad. That many of these respondents will already be using cloud services for receiving antivirus and application updates, while their employees use such services as Google Maps and LinkedIn, seems to have passed them by.

Cloud security as a show-stopper

Some 40 per cent of respondents stated that cloud security was either a complete show-stopper for them or it was the major issue they felt had to be addressed to make cloud more appealing to them.

The research was carried out across nine different geographies, and cloud views were most positive in the USA, Germany and Switzerland and the Nordics

The research was carried out across nine different geographies, and cloud views were most positive in the USA, Germany and Switzerland and the NordicsPhoto: Shutterstock

At the other end of the scale, more than 25 per cent saw cloud security as being no more of an issue than any other issue with cloud, nearly 25 per cent felt a different approach to cloud security was required, but that this was no big deal, and five per cent felt cloud security was no different to any other IT security issue they had to deal with.

When asked about existing cloud platforms, it was interesting that many respondents were still playing a wait-and-see game. Some 25 per cent stated that they believed an incumbent IT vendor – such as Dell, HP, IBM or Oracle – would come along and usurp current cloud platform providers such as Google and Amazon.

A similar number felt the amount of available cloud platforms provided plenty of options for organisations, with a similar number stating they felt it was too early to make a choice and that cloud had yet to mature sufficiently.

Private cloud opinions

When looking at how respondents viewed the building of private clouds, there was a marked match with where they were already. Those who already had a homogeneous environment – for example, Intel-based Windows – were looking for a cloud platform that was homogeneous.

Those on a heterogeneous platform, such as a mix of Intel-based Windows and Linux, maybe with Risc-based Unix, were looking for a cloud platform that could abstract from the hardware to provide a homogeneous cloud environment at the software level.

The research was carried out across nine different geographies, and the cloud views were most positive in the USA, Germany and Switzerland and the Nordics. The Middle East, Italy and Iberia had the lowest expectations and perceptions of cloud.

The US is in the vanguard because most cloud activity is from vendors based within the USA itself. Germany and Switzerland take an architectural approach to computing, and for many, cloud computing provides…

 

…the flexibility they need, and the Nordics have good levels of IT and business alignment that makes cloud an attractive proposition for future growth.

The Middle East, however, has little to drive it away from a one-application-per-physical-server model. It can afford the space, the hardware and, most importantly, the energy to maintain large datacentres running at low levels of utilisation.

For Italy and Iberia, the results are not promising. Should they wish to compete effectively against other regions, being dependent on under-utilised and inflexible IT platforms ignoring the benefits of cloud will put them at a disadvantage.

Cloud views across industry sectors

Analysis was also carried out across industry verticals. Telecoms and media were most positive about cloud, with financial services and public sector being the least positive. For telecoms companies, IT is a core competency, IT assets are massive energy drains and anything that can be done to provide a more effective and efficient platform will benefit the organisation’s bottom line.

Media is seeing massive changes in its market with the move to web-based systems and social media, and has had to accept that it needs far more flexible platforms to deal with such pressures. Financial services are inherently conservative, and security concerns and the masses of inhouse-coded applications make it hard for such organisations to be able to plan effectively for a concerted move to a cloud platform.

The public sector has suffered from too many external influences, and it is unlikely that post-recession spending plans will allow the public sector to review this position and make a move to cloud in the near future, even though such a move could be cost-effective for them.

Need for education on cloud issues

Overall, the research shows organisations are still confused by what they are hearing about cloud computing. Those at the sharp end of the business – the vendors, media and analysts – have a responsibility to ensure information provided about cloud platforms is clear and helps in educating those most in need of cloud, the end-user organisation.

Arguments over whether the future is private or public cloud are self-serving and do not help create the market – the general outcome for most will be a hybrid model anyway.

Throwing fear, uncertainty and doubt at the cloud, especially when it comes to security, are also self-serving. If you take the view that it is all about information security – not hardware or software security – then the cloud just becomes a part of an overall architecture.

The cloud can be a major game-changer for an organisation but the business and IT groups need help in understanding how it can help them and how to make the move from where they are to a hybrid cloud model.

Dangers of complete cloud shifts

Forklift moves, where a vendor promises the Earth based on a complete swap out of inhouse equipment for an on-demand service, or even a swap of inhouse equipment to a new internal cloud architecture based on new equipment, are not the answer.

Providing a platform where organisations can choose what to move into the cloud and when will create a positive market for the cloud – arguing over the detail could kill the market before it has really taken off.

Quocirca’s report on the cloud research can be downloaded free.

Quocirca is a user-facing analyst house known for its focus on the big picture. Made up of experts in technology and its business implications, the Quocirca team includes Clive Longbottom, Bob Tarzey, Rob Bamforth and Louella Fernandes. Their series of columns for silicon.com seeks to demystify the latest jargon and business thinking.