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IT Cloud Services User Survey, pt.2: Top Benefits & Challenges

Posted by Frank Gens on October 2nd, 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.  In part 1, we looked at current and future adoption of IT cloud services.  

This post, part 2, looks at users’ perceptions of the key benefits and challenges of IT cloud services.

Speed to Deploy, Favorable Economics, and Functionality Are Top Cloud Adoption Drivers

We asked 244 survey respondents to rate the importance of a variety of cloud services benefits to their organization.  This chart shows the percentage of respondents rating each benefit a 4 or 5, on a 1 (not important) to 5 (very important) scale.

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The number one benefit of sourcing IT from the cloud is speed and ease of deployment.  Anyone who knows a Sales VP who has signed up for salesforce.com, or any of the other SaaS CRM systems, can certainly believe this: the slow pace of traditional IT development and deployment of business systems has long been a frustration for line-of-business (LOB) executives, and a key driver of SaaS demand.  Users clearly see cloud services as an important answer to their need for speed – in their businesses and in their IT.Indeed, in our post earlier this year about What Users Want From IT, the number one message from LOB executives to their CIO was “speed up project delivery“.  Speed was also a top request of CIOs by their internal customers in our 2006 (#1) and 2007 (#4) surveys.  Users clearly see cloud services as an important answer to their need for speed – in their businesses, and consequently in the IT that supports their businesses.

The next three key benefits deal with improving the economics of businesses’ IT use: aligning costs with utilization, reducing the need for in-house IT staff (and related costs), and replacing large up-front financial outlays with streaming payments.  The importance of the economic benefits of the cloud model should be no surprise: pressure for CIOs to bring costs down shows up repeatedly in our research, most recently in CIOs’ requests of their IT suppliers:  cost-competitiveness is a perennial #1 on the CIO wish list.  Importantly, our survey respondents see cloud services as an answer to that issue as well.

The fourth most highly-rated cloud services benefit is the ability to keep business systems/services up to speed with the latest capabilities in the market.  Since cloud services are based on a shared resources model, providing all users “instant” access to new functionality is exponentially easier for suppliers than through traditional models.   Users are coming to expect the pace and simplicity of Consumer Internet functionality introduction and adoption in their business systems as well.It’s intriguing that users rate this benefit so highly – especially since, in the past 20 years, many have complained bitterly about overstuffed packaged software, bloated with features they don’t use (but have to pay for).  My guess is that, as users have seen more and more functionality coming to market on the Internet, through a cloud services model (most dramatically in the Consumer market) – demonstrating that this model allows providers to more quickly, simply and cheaply introduce new functionality, and allows users to try out and either embrace or ignore new functionality at minimal cost – more users are coming to expect this pace and simplicity in their business systems as well.  The gap between the cloud services model’s ability to support this lightweight “instant upgrade” and “try it out” model, and traditional models’ “major upgrade” approach, will be a surprisingly, and increasingly, strong driver of cloud services adoption.

 

Cloud Services Still Need to Be More Secure, Dependable and Relevant

As noted in our prior survey post, IT cloud services are still largely in the early adoption phase.  As such, it is no surprise that there’s a long list of issues cloud services suppliers need to address to drive mainstream adoption.  Here’s how our respondents rated nine of the challenges commonly ascribed to the cloud services model.

CLICK IMAGE to ENLARGE

By far, the number one concern about cloud services is security: with their businesses’ information and critical IT resources outside the firewall, customers worry about their vulnerability to attack.  

The next two concerns – performance and availability – are both aspects of a broader concern about cloud services dependability: will critical services in the cloud consistently be there, when and as needed by the business?  Dependability concerns cry out for suppliers who offer transparency of interdependencies and credible service level assurances.The complex web of interdependency that supports cloud services availability and performance – from network availability and performance, to the availability and performance of the cloud service provider’s systems, and beyond, to the performance and availability of the “supply chain” of services that the service provider depends on – cries out for suppliers who can offer greater transparency of interdependencies as well as credible service level assurances. 

The next two challenges – the perceived difficulty of cloud services integration, and the limited ability to customize – are both related to the important issue of business relevance.  While customers certainly enjoy the economic and operational benefits of the off-the-shelf, standarized nature of many cloud services, this survey shows they nonetheless want greater ability to “fit” cloud services more tightly into the context of their specific business.   Users want greater ability to “fit” cloud services more tightly into the context of their specific business.

Users want to maximize the leverage of their many other critical business systems – in-house legacy systems and, increasingly, externally-sourced cloud services – by being able to integrate across these systems.  ”SaaS 1.0″ systems – that lack standard-based APIs, and are effectively “islands” – are of diminishing value; this is why we include the requirement for web services APIs in our definition of cloud services.  

Users also want to be able to customize “off-the-shelf” cloud services, to make these services more relevant, more tailored to the needs of their businesses.  For suppliers, this is a delicate balancing act, since many of the user (and supplier) benefits of cloud services come from the multitenant model – maximizing leverage across many customers through a shared resources model.  One answer to this challenge – as we discussed in “Defining ‘Cloud Services’ and ‘Cloud Computing’” – is the growing variety of “outside the code” approaches to providing users the ability to create cloud-based services that better fit their specific business.  The industry will need to continue to expand – and educate customers about – these options.  In the longer run, this need for more tailored solutions will also be addressed by the proliferation of “micro-verticalized” off-the-shelf cloud services, as well as the growth in the number of “next-gen” system integrators who know how to take advantage of both the diversity of cloud services, and the techniques of outside the code customization.

In part 3 of our Cloud User Survey, we will look at what users want most from prospective IT cloud services suppliers.  As we’ll see, many of their top vendor selection criteria pivot around how well suppliers address these adoption challenges.

 

 

 

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12 Responses to “IT Cloud Services User Survey, pt.2: Top Benefits & Challenges”

[...] Hardly a shock but validates the need for a meaningful security conversation between Cloud providers and potential Cloud customers… 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. Successful suppliers will need to address both the biggest challenges of cloud services, and the biggest traditional IT user issues.In part 1, we looked at current and future adoption of IT cloud services. In part 2, we looked at users’ views about the key benefits and challenges of IT cloud services. [...]

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[...] blog published in May, Frank Gens re-stated his opinion that the economic crunch will amplify the economic benefits of the cloud services model, and therefore accelerate IT cloud services adoption. Gens’ blog [...]

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[...] gut reaction has been that the economic crunch would certainly amplify the economic benefits of the cloud services model, and therefore accelerate IT cloud services adoption.  Some data from [...]

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[...] truth in each viewpoint, it’s a little hard to untangle what’s really going on. An oft-quoted survey from IDC reports security is the biggest concern with cloud computing. As a security technologist, I care [...]

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