Among the predictions about the future of the cloud offered at a recent technology event in San Francisco: The role of IT will become more business-focused as routine operations are off-loaded. Some very large companies will migrate all of their technology infrastructure to the cloud, sooner rather than later. And computing power will follow the same trend as electric power did a century ago, becoming a utility delivered from industrial-grade plants (an idea popularized by Nicholas Carr’s 2008 book, The Big Switch ).
Significant progress toward some version of this future already is in evidence, as shown by our study, Unlocking the Cloud. And companies are moving quickly to further their cloud presence–92% of our survey respondents expect to achieve moderate to significant improvements in speed and efficiency of processes via the cloud.
As the chart shows, key business functions such as HR and finance will see rapid cloud adoption in the next three years, and companies expect to see significant gains in productivity, innovation, and efficiency as a result.
Our boldest prediction, made in the paper “Connecting the Cloud,” concerns the power of networked clouds. We say that cloud-derived advances to date are “only incremental gains compared with those promised by the merger of disparate clouds, whether operated by different groups within the same company or by external business partners.” Integration of cloud-based operations into business networks promises a variety of payoffs, including better performance across functional areas (e.g., supply chain, purchasing, payments); increased ability to partner with other firms and take advantage of new technology; and access to new markets and customers.
Nobody who works in technology thinks this will be a picnic. Chuck Hollis, chief strategist for VMware, has posted at his blog a litany of cloud-related woes suffered by vendors and customers in the early days of the transition. But he also sees a way forward, to a market where services tailored to business needs become essential to enterprise users. Here, high-level capabilities, not price, will emerge as the key differentiator. Writes Hollis, “As an IT vendor, you’re known by the quality of your people; I can’t [see] it being all that different in an enterprise public cloud world.”