Practical Analysis: Cloud Computing Is A Matter Of Perspective
It's becoming clear that, at least over the short run, cloud computing won't be a disruptive technology, at least by the classic definition.
In our most recent cloud computing survey, we looked at the perceptions of and expectations for cloud computing based on job function. We separated the IT community into senior management, middle management, and staff, with the goal of understanding how these practitioners view this latest IT phenom. What we found are differing views of adoption but similar views of the effect on IT.
The most interesting finding came in response to the first question: "Is your organization currently using or planning to use cloud services in the next 24 months?" While 40% of upper-level managers think their organizations are using cloud services, only 30% of middle managers and 20% of staffers think theirs is. Given that breakdown, it's not surprising that the percentages were flipped for those answering they have "no plans to evaluate cloud services"--just 12% of upper managers so answered, 22% of middle managers, and 39% of IT staffers.
While we expected some deviation between these groups, we weren't expecting it to be so wide. It could be that IT staffers aren't fully aware of the various tactical software-as-a-service apps in use across their companies, though I doubt that explains why twice as many upper management types see their companies using cloud computing.
It's likely that definitions of what constitutes a cloud service differ, with IT staffers thinking of them as replacements for current IT functions or applications and management types thinking of them as both replacements and augmentations. We see this in the response to our question that digs into the use of software as a service, platform as a service, and infrastructure as a service. Whereas the job function breakdown for SaaS is very close to the disparate breakdown cited above for the broader cloud computing, the numbers are more consistent across job function for PaaS and IaaS.
Despite their different perceptions on the overall use of cloud computing, the three groups are in relative agreement that the cloud will have little effect on staffing and budgets over the next 24 months. Majorities of all three groups foresee slight or no change, with top management more likely to anticipate slight decreases and staff more likely to envision slight increases.
It's becoming clearer that, at least over the short run, cloud computing won't be a disruptive technology, at least not by the classic definition, where the disruption radically reduces the cost of products. Rather, the value of cloud computing is that it offers IT organizations the ability to do more with about the same resources.
Staffers, by the nature of their work, see the devilish details and have a harder time than management types envisioning significant shifts away from the status quo. That's why they see less opportunity for cloud computing. While it's easy to dismiss this view as one that can't see the forest for the trees, dismiss it at your peril. Time and again, it's the failure to anticipate and plan for these sorts of details that results in project delays and cost overruns. Even seemingly small, tactical SaaS apps can carry long-term integration and administration costs not apparent at first glance. That's not a reason not to do a cloud project, but analyze the value and cost, and share that thinking with the project's constituents.
Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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