The move of IT infrastructure from internally owned and operated systems to central, online, utility-like services seems both inevitable and inexorable. But as I write in this column, those of us that expound the benefits of cloud services must calibrate our analysis and opinions with real world data about what actual operators of business IT systems are doing. Although logic and historical analogies may argue that utility IT services will inevitably displace most on-premise infrastructure, actual observation can throw logic right out the window. Fortunately for cloud advocates, at least one recent data point conforms to the rational arguments.
For several years, RightScale, one of the leading developers of cloud management software, has canvassed its customer database to assess the state of the cloud, which this year is best summarized as healthy, maturing, but still developing. The survey, which you can download here, finds 93% of respondents using cloud services, most on both private and public infrastructure, but adoption is wide, not deep. Noteworthy is the fact that 30% of these only use public cloud, a figure that’s undoubtedly skewed by the fact that 45% of respondents hail from organizations with fewer than 100 employees. Indeed, as I wrote last year, the ethos among tech startups is to keep IT infrastructure as lean as possible, owning little more than some laptops and a broadband router, while using the cloud for all the things corporate IT departments traditionally provide. While SMBs are more “cloud focused” by RightScale’s definition, a greater share of large enterprises, 83%, are using cloud services in some form.
Although the survey shows broad cloud adoption, particularly among large enterprises where only 3% have no cloud
plans, Rightscale’s data also illustrates how shallow cloud usage is within the vast majority of organizations. Only 18% of large enterprises and 29% of SMBs consider themselves “cloud focused”. Over two-thirds of respondents have less than 20% of their application portfolio running on clouds. Of the remainder, it’s doubtful many run more than half of their workloads.
Another noteworthy highlight from the survey is the strong use of a multi-cloud strategy, the majority a mix of private and public cloud services. Only 23% of respondents exclusively use (or plan to) public clouds. When it comes to preferred cloud providers, there are no surprises. VMware vCenter leads among private cloud implementations, although OpenStack makes a surprisingly strong showing. For public cloud infrastructure, it’s no contest, AWS is the overwhelming favorite with 61% of respondents already running apps and another 16% experimenting.
The survey also has interesting data on the growing use of DevOps methodologies and the Docker containerization software’s rapid spread to over a third of organizations in the survey. I have more insights in the original column, but the full report is worth a read.
Rightscale’s data may suffer from some selection bias as the company is primarily known by cloud-savvy technologists, however I still consider it a valid and meaningful indicator of cloud adoption trends, product usage and concerns. As I conclude in the column, while cloud adoption is broad and shallow, with a strong preference for hybrid public/private systems, the momentum is clearly towards the largest public services like AWS, Azure and Google. By exploiting growing cost advantages, higher efficiency and resource utilization and a richer set of platform services, public clouds will increasingly be the infrastructure of choice for new business applications and technology services.