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IT Cloud Services User Survey, pt.1: Crossing the Chasm

Posted by Frank Gens on September 29th, 2008

As part of our ongoing research into Cloud Computing, IDC recently conducted a survey of 244 IT executives/CIOs and their line-of-business (LOB) colleagues about their companies’ use of, and views about, IT Cloud Services.

This specific post looks at the current and future adoption of a variety of IT offerings delivered as cloud services. (Subsequent posts will look at users’ perceptions of the key benefits and challenges of IT cloud services, as well as what they want most from suppliers of IT cloud services.)

Current and Future IT Cloud Services Adoption

We asked our survey participants to characterize the current and future usage – on a scale from 1 (none) to 5 (widespread) – of a variety of IT cloud services within their organizations. The chart below shows the percentage of respondents whose organizations are toward the higher end (4 or 5) of the usage scale, and/or will be there in three years.


Among the key messages in this data, I find two particularly important:

IT Cloud Services Are “Crossing the Chasm”

The survey results suggest we’re entering a period of accelerating IT cloud services adoption, with the portion of organizations exhibiting significant adoption moving from 15-25% today to 25-45% in three years. It’s striking how much this data reminds me of Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, in which he noted that the transition from Early Market to Mainstream Market adoption – the challenging, but rewarding period of “crossing the chasm” – typically occurs during the period from 15% adoption (innovators plus early adopters) to 49% adoption (prior adopters plus early majority). It’s not a big leap to consider – given the chart above and the chart below – that IT cloud services are either at, or getting very close to, the “crossing the chasm” stage.


If this is so, the implication for IT suppliers is very clear: the next three years, as IT cloud services expand from Early Adopters to the Early Majority, is the critical time to develop strong cloud offerings, and play a leadership role in bringing customers, your own organization and your partner ecosystem “across the chasm”. As Moore famously points out, suppliers who fail to seriously contend for a leadership role will be left with decidedly minority share as their reward.

Cloud Applications – for Business Users and for IT Management – Are Leading the Charge

Even though IT infrastructure (e.g., server, storage capacity) cloud offerings – from Amazon, Nirvanix, FlexiScale and many others – are emerging and rapidly growing, the survey validates that the greatest adoption today, and for the next several years, is around applications delivered through the cloud.

This really should not come as a surprise. In fact, this survey finding validates an observation Moore makes in Chasm, about the critical role of applications in a market that’s moving from Early to Mainstream markets:

“For actual chasm crossing, applications have a huge advantage. That is because disruptive innovations are more likely to be championed by end users than by the technology professionals that operate the current infrastructure. Applications are what an end user sees… To accelerate the adoption of platforms, then, vendors must clothe them in applications clothing. That is, they must tie them directly to an application in order to gain the end-user sponsorship necessary to secure a beachhead.”

The success of companies like, WebEx (Cisco), Microsoft and Citrix, with cloud/SaaS business applications and collaboration applications – in the early adopter phase of this market – is well known. And now, many other “traditional” players – such as IBM, Oracle and SAP – are bringing more cloud collaboration and business application cloud offerings online as we speak.

What might surprise some – and maybe even Moore – is that IT management applications, most notably around data/information backup and archiving, website monitoring and management, and IT security (including ant-virus and anti-spam), are also identified by respondents as key areas for current and future adoption.

The implication for IT suppliers bringing offerings to the cloud – especially during this next few years – is clear: the closer you can tie your offering to an end-user application (including “IT end-users” who are eager for solutions that solve the problem of managing and securing information and other IT assets), the more likely you are to quickly and successfully make the leap across to mainstream market-type growth.


Watch This Space: More Survey Results to Come…

In the next several days, watch for more findings from IDC’s Cloud Computing Survey. As noted above, we will look at users’ perceptions of the key benefits and challenges of IT cloud services, as well as what they want most from suppliers of IT cloud services.

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10 Responses to “IT Cloud Services User Survey, pt.1: Crossing the Chasm”

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