While there has been considerable research done that seems to indicate that many enterprises will move to the cloud in the medium term, there isn’t a lot about who is using it now and what they are using it for. However, a recently published report by CDW shows that many enterprises are using cloud apps without being aware of it, and that many enterprises have no cloud adoption strategy at all.

That is not to say that the large number of enterprises that don’t have a set strategic plan won’t move to the cloud, but simply that many enterprises are not thinking about cloud computing in a strategic way.

Cloud Computing Strategy

Notable in this respect, according to the report, is that only 38% of companies say they have an enterprise policy paper on the adoption of cloud computing -- a surprise, really, given the finding that 84% of organizations have deployed at least one cloud application already.

The CDW 2011 Cloud Computing Tracking Poll, which surveyed 1,200 IT professionals during the month of March, draws some interesting conclusions, not least of which is an apparent reluctance by enterprise to use public clouds, and the view that if they do go down the cloud computing route, it will be through private clouds.

Cloud Applications Use

But, again, interpreting these figures needs to be done with some care. While, for example, 84% of organizations say that they have used at least one cloud application, they still don’t describe themselves as cloud users.

It is not clear why this might be the case, but it could be a problem of definition, or scale, and a problem that has been identified before that indicates that many enterprises are unclear as to how cloud computing will, or can, work with their existing deployments.

CDW: Cloud application usage
CDW: Cloud application usage

This is underlined by the fact only 42% of those surveyed believe their current services and applications have the potential to operate in the cloud. Applications most commonly operated in the cloud are:

  • Commodity applications such as email (50% of cloud users)
  • File storage (39%)
  • Web and video conferencing (36% and 32%)
  • Online learning (34%)

Toward a Cloud Strategy

The CDW Cloud Computing Tracking Poll includes findings specific to each of eight industries surveyed during March 2011: Small businesses, medium businesses, large businesses, the Federal government, state and local governments, healthcare, higher education and K-12 public schools.

It included 150 individuals from each industry who identified themselves as familiar with their organization’s use of, or plans for, cloud computing.

CDW: Cloud adoption by enterprise sector
CDW: Cloud adoption by enterprise sector

There were many different findings on the current use of cloud computing that can be divided, roughly, into four parts.

1. Adoption Strategy

Even though many companies are using at least one cloud-based application -- as many as 84% -- not many have a formal adoption strategy, with only around a quarter of them describing themselves as cloud users. Just over a third has a formal plan for cloud adoption.

2. ROI Considerations

While 84% also say they experienced cost reductions when they moved applications to the cloud, only one-third of IT managers believed that cloud applications will cost less than traditional applications.

3. Security

Security is again one of the main obstacles holding both current and potential users back, but many, including those who are using cloud applications at the moment, are not using the full potential of security applications available to them.

4. Future spending

Of current cloud users, only 34% believe that, by 2016, they will be spending even one-third of their budgets on cloud resources and applications, with those not currently using the cloud spending slightly more than one quarter (28%) of their budget on the same.

Cloud Computing Now

Five years is a long time in computing, and a very long time in cloud computing. The research doesn’t really explain whether it has distinguished between cloud computing proper and SaaS. It defined cloud computing as a “model for enabling convenient, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources," so SaaS could indeed be included in the research.

If that’s the case, it is likely, given the recent Forrester research on IT spending, that in five years the figures will be considerably different than the ones that CDW have outlined.

You might recall that Forrester found that many organizations will be investing in SaaS, which is a subset of cloud computing rather than cloud computing per se, including the findings that 25% of enterprises were already using it by the beginning of this year, and 14% using IaaS, 8% using PaaS and 6% using business-process-as-a-service.

That is not to say that the CDW research is inaccurate. CDW set out to give a picture of cloud computing and its use at the moment rather than to try to predict where it would be in the coming years.

CDW: Public and private cloud adoption
CDW: Public and private cloud adoption

Do You Have a Cloud Strategy?

In that, the research has been successful. It shows that, apart from a current reluctance to invest in cloud computing now, many companies still appear to be unclear as to what it is, the benefits it might bring and even the fact that many are already using it to some extent.

It also shows that, despite the reported potential ROI and efficiency gains offered by cloud computing, a significant number of companies have yet to sit down and decide if, and how, they are going to use it.

In other words, many companies, according to the research, appear to be falling into cloud computing without a coherent strategy, and we have seen in other areas of computing where a lack of planning can lead, and the efforts, both financial and organizational, required to “fix it” after the fact.