Move to cloud computing accelerating faster than thought for enterprises, survey finds

Uptime Institute survey of 1,000 IT executives finds most expect to have shifted to cloud or colocated data centers within the next four years.

Enterprises are moving to cloud services at a rate faster than previously thought, a new survey shows, which portends major disruptions in data center staffs and structures.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the gist of a survey of 1,000 IT executives, released by Uptime Institute, which shows that 50 percent of senior enterprise IT executives expect the majority of IT workloads to reside off-premise in cloud or colocation sites in the future. Of those respondents, 23 percent expect the shift to happen next year, and 70 percent expect that shift to occur within the next four years.

However, while the report's authors suggest doom and gloom for IT staff -- " competition from service providers threatens the relevance or very existence of enterprise IT teams" -- you may want to hold that thought. Cloud-based data centers may take away the pain and complexity of managing on-site systems, but they are still not for the faint-hearted, or non-tech types, Enterprise staff is still on the hook for provisioning, negotiating, assuring availability, ensuring and enforcing security.

Most of all, enterprises desperately need people who can determine what technology resources are needed, when they are needed, how long they are needed, and for what purposes they are needed. Don't depend on a cloud provider to construct an enterprise architecture and meet exact business requirements.

The Uptime Institute's data suggests there are challenges to moving IT resources off-premises. For example, 40 percent of enterprise respondents are paying more for colocation contracts than initially planned, and nearly one-third experienced an outage at a colocation vendor site (though this is a lower level of incidence than at on-premises data centers). In addition, more than 60 percent said the penalty clause in their service level agreements would not adequately offset the cost of that outage to the business.

Still, the survey reveals, the momentum is toward off-premises. Half have seen flat or shrinking on-site data center budgets over the past five years. Similarly, half also report their on-site server footprints have been flat or shrinking. Only 10 percent report any significant levels of growth in their data centers. Seventy-one percent have an on-premises data center, which is still a lot -- but also suggests that close to 30 percent have no data center at all and depend entirely on outside resources.

Uptime Institute's surveys since 2013 have shown that the majority of respondents report some percentage of their IT portfolio resides outside of their enterprise-owned data centers, either in the cloud or some form of off-premise computing. In this latest survey, 75 percent of respondents use some form of off-premises computing.

The study's authors caution that the survey takes the pulse of the legacy, on-premises enterprise IT and data center operations teams, "many of which are not motivated or inclined to move to cloud." Thus, actual cloud deployments may be understated, due to shadow IT and business unit engagements with cloud service providers.

As the report concludes, cloud introduces a whole new level of responsibility for IT leaders:

"IT as a whole needs to move away from its current role as a slow-moving centralized provider, and instead direct corporate governance across the various business lines - evaluating security, costs, and performance of IT for the business. Additionally, legacy enterprise IT groups need to develop clearer messages to the business to articulate their value and efficacy."

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