Line of business decisionmakers are more interested in cloud computing's strategic potential than are their IT counterparts.
That was one of the surprises in IBM's latest global research into the cloud-computing phenomenon. The survey, released in late October, involved 800 companies in 13 countries and 24 industries.
LOB executives are embracing software-, platform-, and infrastructure-as-a-service more quickly than their IT peers, the survey found.
"Three years from now, 72% of the people we surveyed in the line of business believe it's going to be 'strategically important' to transforming their companies," said IBM's VP of cloud services Ric Telford, who teased some of the research's top-level findings during his keynote at last month's Cloud Connect conference in Chicago.
The majority of IT leaders, some 58%, also believe in cloud's impact, the survey found. Today, IT is ahead of LOB on this dimension, 49% to 34%.
[Want to know more about how IT views the cloud? See OpenStack Wins Developers' Hearts, But Not IT's Minds.]
The IBM survey segmented respondents into three groups: Chasers, Challengers, and Pacesetters.
The last group, which is leading the charge when it comes to cloud adoption, is using the architecture to differentiate their businesses, Telford said. They're using cloud infrastructure and services, combined with analytics, to wholly rethink how their business works, from supply-chain processes to customer relations, he said.
Indeed, much of that analytical muscle will itself be provided via the cloud -- a fact underscored just days ago by IBM's announcement that it would begin offering its partners cloud APIs into its Watson natural-language query engine.
Another surprise in the research -- Telford was careful to call it a "correlation" not a cause -- was how Pacesetters are outpacing the other two segments from a financial perspective.
Specifically, Pacesetters' compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2009 and 2012 beat the Chasers group by 1.9x for revenue and 2.4x for gross profit.
"A third takeaway from the data is how Pacesetters are planning for the future," Telford told InformationWeek in a follow-up phone call. These organizations are thinking beyond using the cloud for storage or other infrastructure-layer functions, and are planning to use its services as "building blocks" for new products and services, including industry-specific solutions, he said.
"This was one of the reasons we invested in SoftLayer," Telford said, referring to IBM's $2 billion purchase of the seven-year-old infrastructure-as-a-service company in July.
SoftLayer's robust infrastructure will become the core of what he called "composable" services from which businesses will roll out their own offerings.
Pacesetters said the top three most valuable capabilities in their "cloud of the future" would be:
- Product/service building blocks: Easy-to-assemble industry or business service components they can use to construct new products or services.
- (Even bigger) big data: Access to and management of vast data stores they can't get to now. They're not alone here; this was a top pick across all three groups.
- Industry-specific platforms: Cloud platforms with applications and computing environments designed specifically for their industry.
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