Cloud Survey Has Warning For Amazon

RightScale's State of the Cloud survey finds Amazon the public cloud leader -- but IT is looking to Rackspace, Google and Microsoft for added testing and experiments.
8 Great Cloud Storage Services
8 Great Cloud Storage Services
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As enterprises gain cloud computing experience, they also earn a bigger return on their cloud investment. "Mature" cloud users are also more likely to move beyond a single cloud service provider to multiple providers and engage in hybrid, public/private cloud computing, according to a RightScale survey of cloud use.

In perhaps a warning to Amazon Web Services, the survey showed Amazon as the overwhelming public cloud leader -- no surprise there. But when it comes to conducting additional experimentation and testing in the cloud, three other major vendors were mentioned just as often as Amazon: Rackspace, Google Compute Engine and Microsoft Windows Azure, "indicating a much more competitive marketplace" in the near future, Right Scale predicted.

The survey also produced one of the few measures showing which of the competing open-source initiatives is most frequently tapped as the backbone of a private cloud implementation: OpenStack leads with about 10% of implementations; CloudStack, which became an Apache Foundation project a year ago, was not far behind at 7%; and Eucalyptus occupied the third-place spot with adoption by 3.5% of the respondents.

At this early date of private cloud build-out, implementations are equally likely to be based on a firm's virtualization vendor, such as Microsoft or VMware. But they are expected to increasingly be based on sets of commercially supported software, whether proprietary or open source, with the open-source projects gaining large communities of contributors and reviewers.

[ Want to learn more about how RightScale sits as a broker between various cloud services? See Cloud's Big Caveat: Runaway Costs. ]

The survey, entitled, "This Cloud Imperative: How Cloud Maturity Unlocks Cloud Value," is the 2013 version of what has become an annual update on "the state of the cloud" financed by RightScale.

The survey was conducted in the first quarter and involved 625 respondents in IT, development and business roles. Responses came from a variety of companies, including financial services, media and publishing, education, digital agencies and software companies. To set up its report, RightScale described different levels of cloud users as seen in the survey: 8% have no plans to use cloud computing; 17% are cloud "watchers" who are learning about cloud computing; 26% are cloud "beginners," with a proof of concept operating in the cloud; 23% are cloud "explorers," with a first project or a handful of applications in the cloud; and 26% are "cloud focused," with multiple workloads in the cloud.

Much of the report focused on responses from enterprise users with 1,000 employees or more. Of this group, 32% were engaged in proof of concept; 14% in their first project; 37% had launched several applications; and 17% were engaged in heavy cloud use.

Many enterprises have "leaned toward a 'public cloud first' approach," since private clouds still require planning and time to set up, the RightScale report said. As a result, 61% of enterprises are running applications in the public cloud; 38% in a private cloud.

Enterprise respondents, however, clearly had multi-cloud operations on their minds: 77% said they plan to use more than one cloud service. Of that group, 15% represented respondents who planned to use multiple public clouds; 15% plan to use multiple private clouds; and 47% plan to use hybrid cloud arrangements, or a combination of public and private cloud services working together. Why 15% would seek to use multiple private clouds? Perhaps because they see multiple projects on premises to build a private cloud; more likely, an enterprise is expecting to use the virtual private cloud service offered by a public cloud vendor, as well as its own private cloud project.

Enterprises already experienced in public cloud computing showed most frequently in the Cloud Focused category. They were already running a wide variety of workloads in the cloud, including batch processing, formerly internal mobile and Web applications, as well as the more frequently encountered test and development, marketing campaigns, big data analytics, social networking apps and batch processing.

More than 25% of Beginners, 50% of Explorers and 80% of the Cloud Focused groups reported the same major benefits of adopting cloud computing: faster business user access to infrastructure, greater scalability and faster time to market for new apps.

"The more that organizations learn about how to work in the cloud, the more they understand how to address cloud-associated challenges" in governance, compliance, integration and security, the report stated. For example, 38% of Beginners found security to be a significant challenge in the cloud; just 18% of the Cloud Focused group.

In addition, experienced users are more likely to set goals of hybrid cloud computing with complementary operations in the public and private cloud, or use of multiple public or private cloud implementations.

As cloud usage in all forms increases, organizations report that "they realize significant more value from their cloud adoption. … As cloud maturity increases, fewer organizations report significant challenges in such areas as security, governance and compliance." In addition, more mature users suffer less from cloud outages, when they occur, than less experienced ones.

The latter outcome may be a result of users gaining experience with Amazon's availability zones and spreading copies of applications and data across them, a safeguard usually sufficient to allow quick recovery if one availability zone is impaired. If may also be a consequence of implementing a multi-cloud strategy, where backup and recovery systems are kept in a geographically distant zone so that a sizeable natural disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy, doesn't knock out business critical systems.

One of the most distinct signs of more sophisticated IT in the survey, however, was the correlation of DevOps adopters and members of the Cloud Focused group. Seventy-five percent of Cloud Focused users are also DevOps implementers, compared to 56% for Cloud Explorers, 53% for Cloud Beginners and 41% for Cloud Watchers.

"Cloud and DevOps both focus on enabling IT agility" and IT managers focused on one are likely to be knowledgeable on the other, the report said. The use of open source configuration management tools, such as Chef and Puppet, make it possible to build software stacks, then quickly deploy production-like environments for test purposes, if the resources are available to do so. "By leveraging both together, companies can multiple the impact and deliver products to market more quickly," the report concluded.