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Cloud Shift Is Real, Happening, Imminent -- and Behind Schedule?

When technology historians try to pinpoint the precise period when the cloud really took off, they'd do well to focus on late July and early August of 2016.

When technology historians try to pinpoint the precise period when the cloud took off, they'd do well to focus on late July and early August of 2016.

The space of a single week saw Oracle's $9.3 billion acquisition of software-as-a-service (SaaS) giant NetSuite, a strong Amazon Q2 earnings report that was buoyed by the phenomenal performance of Amazon Web Services (AWS), and a slew of research -- from Gartner, Synergy Research, and now Unisys -- about impending cloud shift.

The latest is Unisys' entry, a research survey which finds that more than two-thirds of respondents anticipate shifting at least half their IT resources to the cloud in the next two years. Nearly half of all respondents -- 44 percent -- expect to shift 75 percent of their IT resources to the cloud by 2018.

Those are two of the more sensational data points from "Trends in Cloud Computing," a survey published by contract researcher Gateway Research and sponsored by Unisys. The survey's sample consists of 203 executives; 16 percent are CXOs and 13 percent are VPs. Rounding out the sample, 39 percent are directors and 29 percent are managers.

The makeup of the survey sample doesn't match cloud providers' market share. For example, 46 percent of respondents in the Unisys survey use Redmond's Azure platform, while 42 percent use Amazon AWS. However, a recent report from Synergy Research found that AWS controls almost one-third of the cloud market -- and has almost three times as many customers as Azure. The report didn't discuss whether platform choice could affect an enterprise's plans. (Microsoft was the second leading cloud vendor in the Synergy report. Google was third. Collectively, AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud control half the market. The combined tally for all other players was less than that of AWS.)

CIOs Leading the Cloud Shift

Twenty-one percent of respondents in the Unisys survey say they haven't yet shifted any workloads to the cloud. Those that have made the shift appear to have done so at a CIO's behest: nearly three quarters (72 percent) say their CIO championed the shift of on-premises workloads to the cloud.

"This study shows that far-sighted CIOs have a clear view of the competitive, operational, and economic benefits of cloud computing and are taking energetic action to realize them for their organizations," said Steve Nunn, Unisys' vice president for cloud and infrastructure services, in a prepared release.

Nunn noted that 42 percent of respondents cited security as a particular concern in cloud environments: "At the same time, those decision-makers are clear-eyed about the need to secure both existing IT and new cloud resources in order to protect vital business assets."

Another spur to cloud shift was a need to replace aging or obsolete on-premises technology, cited by 44 percent of respondents. (Respondents could select from among multiple choices.)

Cloud Shift Planned -- Not Yet Realized

If organizations really are going to undertake an en-masse shift of their existing on-premises workloads to the cloud, they'd better get started.

Right now, relatively few critical workloads live in the cloud: 78 percent of mission-critical apps and 67 percent of storage still live in the on-premises enterprise despite the abundance of cheap cloud storage services, such as Amazon's Scalable Storage Service (S3), Google's Cloud Storage, and Microsoft's Azure StorSimple.

Anecdotally, prominent data warehousing and big data vendors report massive uptake of cloud storage, particularly for data archiving. Three years ago, the Hadoop platform was, for all intents and purposes, the locus of data lake investments; increasingly, services such as S3 are.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at [email protected].

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