Cloud computing by the numbers

Three fresh cloud computing surveys, including a major Harvard Business Review report, offer an intriguing snapshot of cloud computing attitudes and adoption

You think you've heard enough about the cloud? I get pummeled daily by phone calls and email pitching every possible cloud angle. If there were a cloud toaster, the UPS guy would bring me one.

But even I was surprised to see three new cloud studies released in the space of a couple of weeks -- from Harvard Business Review (HBR), The Open Group, and Quest Software.

[ Read other recent Eric Knorr posts on cloud computing: "Why the cloud can't be separated from open source" and "How to cash in on cloud computing."| Check out InfoWorld's iGuide on cloud computing. ]

In the midst of cloud overkill, I suddenly had an opportunity to mash together a big survey base of about 2,500 respondents and identify some significant trends. First, let's look at each survey's signature result:

  • In the HBR cloud survey, which targeted "business and technology leaders," the surprise was that flexibility, scalability, and the ability to experiment were the big attractors -- not cost reduction, as you might expect.
  • The Open Group survey, which targeted "IT professionals," highlighted a disconnect: 82 percent of those surveyed said that they expect the cloud to impact "one or more business processes," but only 28 percent were prepared for the changes that might ensue.
  • The Quest survey, which targeted "IT professionals in government and education," found that half of respondents were already on the cloud adoption path -- but roughly that same proportion said they had no "exit strategy" if their cloud initiative were to fail.

All this serves to remind us that when it comes to the cloud, we're still in very early days. I think that's one reason the surveys themselves are a little sketchy. Are answers to broad questions about "cloud adoption" useful, when that can mean anything from a Salesforce.com account to a private dev and test cloud?

I would argue that they are -- but only in measuring attitudes, not implementations of anything. In one stark assessment of the muddled nomenclature, nearly two-thirds of respondents to a question in the Quest survey saw "a lot" or a "moderate level of" confusion about the difference between cloud computing and virtualization.

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