It is stunning to see how much corporate IT realities have changed in the last five years. Today, an increasing proportion of infrastructure is rented rather than purchased, sourced with OPEX funds from remote suppliers. Agility has become the watchword for new automation projects, and acceptable timeframes are no longer calibrated in months. End-users can source applications, infrastructure and other needed services from a wide variety of online resources. And workers are tethered to the corporate infrastructure by their smartphones and tablets, not by the cables attached to their desks.
Most of these changes are attributable in part or in whole to cloud computing. Cloud infrastructure provides the basis for OPEX-based, flexible-timeframe infrastructure rentals. SaaS providers are able to deploy new automation in hours rather than months. Mobility is not really a discrete initiative so much as it is a key attribute of ubiquitous infrastructure. And IT now competes for corporate IT influence and budgets – it is no longer the “final word” on IT/business solution strategies.
Spurred by these changes, Techaisle conducted a unique survey of SMBs. To better reflect the reality of distributed IT influence and authority, we surveyed roughly equal numbers of business decision makers (BDMs) and IT decision makers (ITDMs), asking both groups to provide a “360° perspective” on the critical IT/business trends within their organizations. Key findings from the cloud adoption research included:
- Why is cloud being used by SMBs: In many organizations, cloud may have first been introduced as a means of reducing CAPEX and/or overall IT costs, but today, it is viewed by SMBs as a means of increasing business agility and of introducing capabilities that would have been cost or time-prohibitive to deploy on traditional technology. Companies in the “middle” of the SMB market – those with 50-250 employees – emphasize the ability of cloud to make IT staff more productive, while smaller and larger organizations are primarily interested in enabling business staff.
- Who is driving cloud adoption: Techaisle’s research shows that ITDMs are primarily responsible for cloud’s platform technologies – IaaS, and virtualization and mobile device management – and that they share authority for SaaS with BDMs. However, the capabilities based on these foundational technologies – mobility, Big Data, BI/analytics, collaboration and social media – are largely directed by BDMs. BDMs also have taken a leadership role in the solution process steps (need identification, strategic and operational planning, even evaluation) that lead to a sale. ITDMs retain responsibility for deployment and training, but optimization is now also primarily the responsibility of BDMs.
- What kinds of cloud are in use: Our research shows that SMBs use a mix of public, private and hybrid clouds – and that organizations often use two or three of these approaches simultaneously. The data suggests that the cloud deployment process starts with the business requirement, and moves back to the deployment model – rather than starting with a platform, and expanding across incremental workloads. If cloud selection is not a “religious issue”, then accounts are not won or lost at a single platform decision – they are won or lost on a workload-by-workload basis.
- When will cloud usage patterns change and how: Our analysis demonstrates the coming dominance of hybrid as a delivery model – which drives increased demand for both public and private cloud as well – and projects high-growth forecasts for cloud storage, data backup and cloud security at a workload level, and for vertical applications, content publishing, CRM and BI/analytics in SaaS.
- Roles and responsibilities through the cloud security process: A troublingly-substantial proportion of small businesses either does not know who is responsible for specific security activities or believe that the requirements do not apply to their businesses, and both small and medium businesses demonstrate an over-reliance on cloud suppliers.
- Attributes of successful cloud solutions: Techaisle's survey results clearly demonstrate that small and medium businesses view support for mobility (and information access generally) as a key attribute of cloud success. Small businesses are also focused on the inherent cloud capability to deliver backup, continuity and disaster recovery, while mid-market firms view access to scalable compute and storage resources as a key cloud success attribute. BDMs view continuity/backup/DR (and security) as key cloud deliverables – likely, as a result of a need to bridge the gap between setting policy and managing security processes while ITDMs demonstrate relatively acute interest in whether their cloud providers can deliver integration with physical systems and support for managed IT environments.
- Key inhibitor in using cloud: Security and control over data are two key inhibitors for accelerating the use of cloud, but the data indicates that BDMs can be persuaded that cloud contributes to better security.