As cloud computing spreads, survey shows IT managers getting more resourceful

RightScale's latest survey of 1,000-plus IT managers finds hybrid cloud rules, and IT is at the center of the action. They are turning to DevOps and containers to make things happen.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Not too long ago, cloud computing lurked in the shadows, seen as a workaround to bottlenecky IT departments. Lately, however, that perception seems to have turned around almost entirely. Organizations are almost pleading with IT managers to help them navigate the new cloud world.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

This is one of the key takeaways in a recent survey of 1,060 technology managers, released by RightScale Inc., a cloud management provider. Within larger enterprises, the shift is well underway from shadow IT driven by individual teams to a centralized approach that enables cloud consumption of cloud services across the entire organization. In the process, IT managers are evolving into cloud brokers.

Enterprises increasingly acknowledge the role of central IT to set policies (up from 31 percent to 44 percent this year). Among enterprises, the central IT team is typically tasked with assembling a hybrid portfolio of supported clouds. Their top priority is to leverage hybrid cloud (29 percent), while 27 percent look to central IT to deploy public clouds, and 23 percent are tasking central IT with private cloud development.

The greatest challenge is to find or train people who can help fill this new role. The survey finds skills and resource issues are now the dominant concern about cloud, surpassing security concerns, which continue to diminish among IT managers. a lack of resources or expertise -- cited as the number-one cloud challenge by 32 percent, supplanting security (cited by 29 percent).

The budgets that IT managers need to keep things expanding may not be there, but new methodologies and platforms may be helping to smooth the way. DevOps, for instance, is an area rapidly gaining traction within cloud-focused enterprises. The survey's authors even call DevOps and cloud "twins that are closely linked." As companies seek to drive digital business by delivering new software applications and features more quickly, they look to both DevOps and cloud as key enablers. DevOps is now being adopted by 74 percent of organizations, up from 66 percent in last year's survey. Adoption among enterprises (1,000 employees or more) is even higher, reaching 81 percent.

There is also a new generation of open-source platforms and tools emerging with the rise of cloud. Docker, the open-source container technology that enables the rapid deployment of applications across any platform, is "spreading like wildfire," the survey report states. Overall Docker adoption more than doubled to 27 percent, versus 13 percent in last year's survey. Another 35 percent of IT managers say they have plans to use Docker.

In addition, adoption of configuration management tools from Ansible, Puppet, and Chef are growing. Chef and Puppet are now each in use by 32 percent of respondents, while Ansible is used by 20 percent.

The RightScale survey shows that cloud adoption is growing and hybrid cloud adoption has now hit its stride. The strong growth in the use of private cloud, combined with the ubiquity of public cloud means that a super-majority of organizations -- 82 percent -- are now operating in a hybrid environment.

More enterprise workloads are moving to both public and private cloud. The number of enterprises running more than 1,000 virtual machines (VMs) in public cloud increased from 13 percent to 17 percent, while those running more than 1,000 VMs in private cloud grew from 22 percent to 31 percent. In comparison, enterprises with virtualized environments containing more than 1,000 VMs grew from 42 percent to 48 percent. "The growth in private cloud workloads also may include long-standing virtualized environments that have been enhanced and relabeled as a private cloud," the report's authors note.

The cost of cloud services themselves are also rising as a concern. While seen as a cost-saver in earlier days, the expenses associated with cloud services have the potential to run amok. "As adoption grows, cloud bills and cost concerns are also growing, but most organizations are doing little to implement cost management and optimization strategies," the survey's authors state. At least 26 percent of respondents identify cloud cost management as a significant challenge, an increase from 18 percent in 2013.

"Few companies are taking critical actions to optimize cloud costs, such as shutting down unused workloads or selecting lower-cost cloud or regions," the survey report states. The most common optimization action is monitoring utilization and rightsizing instances (45 percent of enterprises and SMBs). 36 percent of SMBs are purchasing AWS Reserved Instances (RIs) to save money, but only 21 percent are tracking purchased RIs to make sure that they are being fully utilized. "When purchased RIs are not fully used, the savings decline, and the RI can end up costing more than on-demand instances," the report's authors explain.

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