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SMB Cloud Computing – Looking from Back to the Future

In the early days, the key question wasn’t “when?” but “what?” Looking back at 2011.

Four years ago, Techaisle’s 2011 SMB Cloud Adoption report began with a discussion of cloud awareness within the SMB community. Results showed that while SMBs were reasonably familiar with the terms “private cloud” and “public cloud” (recognized by 84% and 74%, respectively, of SMB respondents), “XaaS” had not yet entered the SMBs’ lexicon: less than 25%  were familiar with the term “hybrid cloud”, and IaaS and PaaS were also not commonly understood.

Discussions of reasons for adoption and barriers to cloud adoption also illustrate how much the cloud market has evolved over the past four years. In 2011, SMBs cited “simplified access through a browser from any location” as the second-most important reason to adopt cloud; in today’s multi-screen, mobile world, requirements have progressed much further, with an application interface layer capable of responding to different displays, a practical necessity for many business systems. Similarly, features like “eliminating the need to upgrade individual users” and “getting new features automatically” have become expected attributes of cloud, as attention progresses to issues like building agility and obtaining new capabilities. The data did highlight one issue that has remained constant from 2011 to 2014 though: as was the case with Techaisle’s most recent 2014 SMB cloud survey, the 2011 results emphasized a desire to increase IT staff’s efficiency as a key reason to embrace cloud.

In 2011, when asked, “What vendor actions would compel you to use cloud services?” 46% of small businesses and 38% of medium businesses replied that they would “never consider using hosted applications.” Today, of course, refusal to consider SaaS is still an option; but increasingly, it is an expensive, non-mainstream option – helping to remind us that “never” is not a good planning horizon for new technology.

Overcoming Cloud Adoption barriers of 2011

In many ways, a review of the list of barriers to cloud adoption cited by our 2011 respondents is even more helpful in illuminating increased SMB focus on cloud. In the 2011 research, respondents not using cloud were asked to specify the conditions that would prompt them to consider use of cloud services. The list of top responses is intriguing. The most frequent answer cited by 2011 respondents was “if the cost of owning the applications is significantly higher than renting them”. It can be argued that this condition has been met – that for many applications, ranging from office suites (where pricing for Office 365 is more compelling than for boxed versions of the software), to niche-specific applications where on-demand fees provide far superior economics than a combination of new hardware and licensed software, to the “fail fast” mantra used to apply cloud to emerging business opportunities (one which relies on the freedom to spin up and spin down applications quickly, without reference to the depreciation cycle associated with the underlying hardware), the economics of cloud are compelling for at least some applications.

Similarly, the second most frequently-cited condition that would prompt 2011 non-users of cloud to consider adoption – “if the application we need meets our needs completely” – is also often frequently met today, thanks to the explosion of niche-specific applications available from an ever-expanding universe of cloud application sources. Viewed in hindsight, we can see that cloud provides an ideal delivery platform (and associated business model) for addressing these conditions, which has in turn helped fuel cloud’s advance in the SMB market.

Where are we heading from here? Tracing the trajectory of SMB cloud usage

Through its relatively brief history, cloud projections have been hampered by the “hockey stick” phenomenon. Cloud is growing in multiple ways simultaneously: the number of firms using cloud is increasing, the number of individuals using cloud within these firms is increasing (e.g., as business users in different areas and IT workers find discrete uses for cloud-based systems), and the number of platforms and applications in use within each organization is increasing. These compounding growth curves drive extreme growth expectations that are difficult to digest.

Based on our most recent 2014 SMB cloud study we have constructed a “current and projected” perspective. The data serves to reinforce the belief that hybrid is emerging as the dominant cloud delivery model. Some of the hybrid growth numbers are extraordinary: use of “hybrid-only” is increasing by 87%, while the proportion of SMBs using a combination of private and hybrid is expected to grow by 122%, and use of all three of public/private/hybrid cloud is expected to increase by 130%.

However, even the figures that are less exceptional still relay an impressive underlying story. Take, for example, the “public only” group. Data shows that businesses using only public cloud will shrink by 20% within US-based SMBs. However, public cloud itself will be a growing part of SMB cloud delivery strategies and is actually poised to increase by 75% through the forecast period.

Using the same survey data based projection methodology we have created workload scenarios across sixteen different applications areas. The “full market adoption” scenario assumes that all SMBs reporting plans to adopt cloud do so whereas the “gradual adoption scenario” takes a different approach: it assumes that current cloud users will adopt each technology according to current plans, while new cloud users will adopt each technology only at current usage rates.

Data clearly shows the coming dominance of hybrid as a delivery model – which drives increased demand for both public and private cloud as well – and provides 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. It can be difficult to parse through the many, extraordinary growth projections for cloud. By connecting user intentions for growth in overall cloud adoption with adoption patterns for delivery, workloads and applications, Techaisle provides its clients with the data needed to calibrate the growth needed to keep pace with or exceed the overall SMB cloud opportunity.

Related research report: SMB & Mid-Market Cloud Computing Adoption Trends

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Tuesday, 15 October 2019

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