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Put your money on hybrid cloud computing — and Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Rackspace.

But be forewarned: Security (or lack thereof) is still a concern and one of the chief reasons for underuse of cloud resources.

The findings, contained in RightScale’s State of the Cloud Report for 2015, paint a picture of a technology space that is well established but still immature in some respects.

It also confirms that hybrid cloud deployments are the preferred path for enterprises movement to the cloud, which explains why leading vendors have invested so many resources into their hybrid cloud portfolio.

Sunny Future for the Cloud

The findings are the result of a January survey of 930 technology professionals across a wide range of industries, principally in the US and Europe. About a third of them represent enterprises with more than 1,000 employees, with the remainder from the small- to mid-size (SMB) space.

Survey respondents were divided into four segments, based on their cloud adoption and experience:

  • Cloud Watchers: Organizations that are developing strategies and plans, but have no deployments
  • Cloud Beginners: Organizations working on proof-of-concepts to establish future directions
  • Cloud Explorers: Organizations that have substantial cloud deployments and who are looking at expanding
  • Cloud Focused: Organizations that are heavily using cloud infrastructure

No matter what size company or the industry in which it operates, cloud computing is a given. A whopping 93 percent of organizations report that they either have or are developing a cloud strategy. 

Of those, 88 percent are using public clouds and 63 percent are using private clouds — a sign of overlap, with many enterprises using both options.

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It is notable that enterprise respondents are heavily clustered between Beginners and Explorers, including 38 percent who are firmly in the Explorer category, up from 25 percent last year.

Given the time it took for enterprises to recognize the value of cloud computing, it's not surprising that many are still getting their feet wet.

Market Leaders

AWS is still the biggest player in the space. About 57 percent of respondents are running applications in AWS, up 3 percent from the previous year. Although Microsoft Azure has made progress — doubling its presence from 6 percent to 12 percent year-over-year — AWS still has four times more users. In addition, another 24 percent are considering AWS for a future deployment.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) from Google and Azure continues to generate a lot of interest and potential for future adoption, with 24 percent indicating that they are looking at these clouds with a view to deployments. 

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AWS dominates the enterprise space,  50 percent of enterprise respondents using it. Azure has 19 percent of the market, up from 11 percent a year earlier. This means that the AWS lead in the enterprise narrowed from more than four times to 2.5 times its nearest competitor. It's possible that this gap could narrow, since 36 percent are experimenting with or planning to use Azure. Many enterprises use both AWS and Azure as part of a diversified portfolio of cloud providers. Google has 7 percent of the market, up from 4 percent a year earlier.

In the SMB space, AWS has 61 percent of the market, up from 56 percent. Rackspace is in second place with 11 percent, down from 13 percent a year earlier. Azure IaaS adoption also grew for smaller companies in 2015 (9 percent as opposed to 4 percent in 2014). There also seems to be strong interest in Google, with 31 percent indicating that they are intrigued by Google Iaas.

In the private cloud space overall, VMware leads with 33 percent of respondents using vSphere as a private cloud and 13 percent using vCloud Director. OpenStack has 13 percent, with a lot of enterprises currently looking at it. Microsoft Azure Pack is used by 7 percent.

Among enterprises, VMware is the more widely used (53 percent for vSphere and 26 percent for vCloud Suite), almost identical to use in 2014. Microsoft System Center holds third position with 19 percent adoption among larger organizations, while OpenStack increased from 15 percent last year to 18 percent in 2015.

Among SMBs, VMware vSphere still leads with 23 percent adoption while OpenStack is second with 10 percent adoption.

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Mixed Environments

Increasingly, enterprises plan to use a portfolio of clouds, with 82 percent reporting a multi-cloud strategy compared to 74 percent in 2014. Furthermore, this year’s survey reveals that 55 percent of enterprises are planning for hybrid clouds, 13 percent expect to use multiple public clouds and 14 percent are planning for multiple private clouds.

Enterprises are predicting a greater growth in public workloads, with 27 percent of enterprises expecting to double their public cloud workloads over the coming year.

In the majority of enterprises, less than 20 percent of enterprise applications are being run in the cloud, which points to a substantial business opportunity for the likes of Microsoft or Google with their productivity apps.

Cloud Challenges

One significant weakness in the development of cloud deployments is the stagnation of cloud governance capabilities, despite strong efforts by Amazon and Microsoft. A majority of enterprises are still missing critical elements of cloud governance, including a defined portfolio of cloud providers, guidelines on which applications should migrate to cloud, cloud SLA (Service Level Agreements), disaster recovery policies and basic approval policies.

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Many organizations reported skills shortages is an obstacle to deeper cloud adoption. Lack of cloud resources and expertise is a "significant" challenge for 27 percent of respondents, up ten percent in the past year alone.

As for benefits from the cloud, most respondents cited scalability, faster access to infrastructure and availability.

Looking ahead, the next big challenge will likely be management of cloud services. As organizations extend and develop their cloud footprints, it is increasingly difficult to get a clear view of what is happening across their cloud environments.

Title image by Asa Aarons Smith/all rights reserved.