Cloud applications are the future, but how long will it take?

Cloud applications will be everywhere someday, but new research says there are still a lot of doubters. What's behind this data?

Marc Benioff was one of the original promoters of cloud applications, as founder of Salesforce.com and its "No Software" logo back in 1999. Larry Ellison might not want to give Benioff all that credit, but you can't deny Benioff is a visionary for staking a claim on the future of enterprise computing. His latest epiphany is about how Facebook will fit into that future.

Scot PetersenScot Petersen

"I think all software is going to look like Facebook,” Benioff said at his company's Dreamforce Conference late last month. “Everyone is going to have to rewrite [their code] to have a feed-based platform." I agree. I mentioned recently that Facebook has provided a common interface to enable the growth of social collaboration tools in the enterprise. Why not all business applications?

The benefits of moving to the cloud are now impossible to ignore. Some experts argue that forces like Amazon.com will push all computing into the cloud. Others debate that notion rather strenuously. The reality of the situation is that both extremes are correct. However bright the vision, ubiquitous, socially enabled cloud applications are still far from reality. New research from TechTarget shows that not all users are convinced cloud apps are for them. Or at least, there is still significant inertia holding back full cloud adoption.

In an August 2012 TechTarget Cloud Pulse Survey, 61% of users said they use cloud services (the total sample was approximately 1,500). But of those who said they don't use cloud, 80% don't plan on using the cloud for at least a year, and 45% don't plan on using cloud IT services at all.

What could be behind these numbers? There are probably as many reasons for the discrepancies as there are respondents, but two main points are factors here:

There's too much existing infrastructure: Companies simply have too much invested in existing infrastructure, which has a cost and which, if it's replaced before it's fully amortized, is a bad business decision -- unless cloud is added on for specific business purposes, as was done by IT Leadership Award winner for Technological Advancement Paul Stamas, vice president of IT for Mohawk Fine Papers Inc. In companies that have no immediate plans for transforming their company with the cloud, cloud apps can create incremental benefits in the near term.

There are too many partners: Led by Amazon.com and its EC2 services, there are plenty of Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers. And maybe that's a problem. In the bunch are Microsoft and its Azure program, but there's still no "Microsoft" -- the one player that helped define and consolidate choices for enterprise computing, for better or worse, over the past two decades. I believe the market will need that in order to make choices easier for businesses.

Is cloud here to stay? Absolutely; but it's not for everyone, not yet. But savvy IT managers will start planning for the day when cloud touches every part of the enterprise.

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