Appirio: early cloud adopters like what they are getting but integration issues loom

Early cloud adopters are achieving solid benefits and will likely continue investments. But interoperability issues loom on the horizon.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Appirio has released the results of a public cloud adopter survey taken from the perspective of those who are already using cloud solutions/services. In one sense the results should not be surprising. For example: 67% believe TCO is somewhat or significantly better compared to on-premise or that 52% believe they get less vendor lock-in. You would expect early adopters to be finding positives when they are on the hook for taking perceived risks.

The big surprise to Appirio is how positive people are about their experience of cloud solutions and especially IT people who have in the past been skeptics. According to the survey: 44% strongly agree that cloud has enabled them to respond faster to business needs while a further 36% somewhat agree. 36% strongly agree that cloud solutions are quicker and easier to deploy with another 45% somewhat agreeing.  In my research around the SMB space I see plenty of examples where end users are delighted at their cloud implementations.

Security is often cited as a barrier to entry yet in this survey, 28% believe that security issues are a misconception. However there is no getting away from the coming problem of cloud to cloud integration with 76% believing it is either important or very important. This is a topic that is just starting to gain attention.

In our discussion, Appirio said: "Very few people have achieved any real integration beyond single sign-on. Even so, 61% of respondents believe ease of integration compares favorably with on-premise." I challenge whether this is true.

Earlier today I fielded a call with a NetSuite customer who has been experiencing problems with the e-commerce cart. I don't have enough details to be 100% certain but on what I have been told, it may well be that custom scripts are causing conflicts with the NetSuite 2010.2 release. I am also aware that Salesforce.com has been refreshing code that is giving third party Force.com developers headaches. If cloud players are having these issues then imagine what it is like stringing clouds together.

Appirio is aware of this, referring me to a Gartner paper where author Daryl Plummer says: "Constructed interoperability can be done generically for a set of customers (as Appirio does with its Google Mail customizations), or it can be done specifically as a unique customization of the original cloud service (as is done using Boomi technologies). The difficulty with these approaches is that whenever the original cloud service providers change the way their services or service APIs work, there may be a need to modify the customized solutions. Companies that are in business to do this can keep up with these changes and stay ahead of the curve. However, there is a difference between can and will." At a recent Appirio event, Mr Plummer went further, saying there is a real need for cloud brokerages.

Elsewhere, ZDNet UK is reporting:

The Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA), also launched at Cern, is a group of 70 large enterprises aiming for open, interoperable datacentre and cloud standards, and implementation. Intel is technical advisor to the group, whose members include Shell, BMW, Lockheed Martin and Deutsche Bank.

In a BBC report our own Larry Dignan is quoted as saying of ODCA:

"That buying power [$50 bn per annum] is why this open data centre push is interesting. Given the buying clout, vendors will have to play the cloud interoperability game.

"While it's unclear how successful this alliance will be, it is at least shedding the spotlight on cloud interoperability, a big emerging issue."

Appirio for its part doesn't believe a single vendor can solve all problems. It would a "boiling the ocean" issue. It is placing its bets on Salesforce.com, Workday and Google as three vendors that will capture enough market share for it to profitably offer cloud brokerage services.

While cloud integration/interoperability may not be on everyone's agenda today it isn't going to go away. Appirio believes it will be 12 to 18 months before it becomes a major issue. There's no disagreement with that from me. But it will be interesting to see whether respondents have changed their minds about how good the cloud has been and whether today's benefits carry over into the future.

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