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Seeing through the cloud: looking beyond headline stats

Wed 3 Jun 2020 | Dom Polonieck

While stories of the death of the legacy data centre may have been exaggerated, it is coming – just not quite as soon as many expected

When it comes to informed opinion, the IT world is blessed (some would say cursed) with a surfeit of riches. Go looking for the latest trends in any area of technology and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of surveys on everything from digital transformation, data analytics and AI to more mundane issues such as the best laptops and mobiles to buy.

In fact there’s so much choice that decision makers rarely have time to look past the attention grabbing stats, clearly aimed at making these reports stand out from the crowd. Which is a real shame as, all too often, there’s a lot of other useful data tucked away behind the headline-grabbing numbers; data that can be of real practical value when it comes to deciding what trends, if any, to follow.

Take the second Vanson Bourne survey into enterprise cloud deployment for example (the Enterprise Cloud Index 2019) where a key finding is that, just as in 2018, businesses across the board are putting their weight behind hybrid cloud as a preferred model for enterprise IT going forward.

In fact, 85% of the 2,650 decision makers surveyed said it was the “ideal” IT operating model. Which is interesting but hardly major news and a little less than the 92% saying this in the previous survey. So readers might easily stop there and move onto the next reports as the benefits of cloud are well established and it’s just common sense to not put all your IT eggs in one basket – to both minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of cloud by hosting applications where they work best.

First impressions

Delve deeper into the report, however, and you find that despite such clear enthusiasm for hybrid cloud the practicalities of moving to this “ideal” model are far from straightforward. Indeed, when you compare actual deployments against what companies said they were planning there’s been a bit of “blip”.

According to the 2018 Index the plans were, allegedly, to go all out for hybrid cloud at the expense of the legacy data centre but, in practice, the reverse turned out to be true. Far from plummeting, legacy data centre deployments actually rose, by an average of 12.5% compared to a predicted 20% drop. Global hybrid cloud deployments, meanwhile, fell and did so on average, by just over 5%.

So what’s going on? Well, the first thing to notice is that despite this apparent reversal in fortune, the survey found companies still bullish when it came to future plans to migrate to hybrid cloud, albeit over a slightly longer timeframe.

Moreover, the “blip” can be explained by reference to what Gartner calls the “Trough of Disillusionment” a part of the so-called “Hype Cycle” it believes all new technologies go through.According to the Gartner model, there’s an initial rush of adoption when new technologies appear, fuelled by over inflated expectations driven, largely, by marketing claims. That’s then followed by a period of disillusionment as a lot of these immature early adoptions fail to live up to that initial hype.

This, it seems, is where we are with hybrid cloud – with lots of products and services to choose from, but a real lack of understanding when it comes to how these complex solutions can be made to work together.

More than that, the Enterprise Cloud Index shows enterprises lacking the skills they need to gain that understanding and struggling to find the management and analytical tools required to make sense of their cloud investments. Hence why so many (73 percent worldwide according to the survey) were found to have repatriated cloud workloads back to the data centre where they are a lot more comfortable and better resourced.

The good news is that if you dig further into the Vanson Bourne survey you’ll find figures indicating that this particular trough of disillusionment could be short-lived. Indeed, some areas appear to be getting through it already with the UK, Italy and Brazil for example, each reporting a 24% penetration of hybrid cloud already. In the case of the UK too there was a less precipitous return to the data centre and a modest 8% rise in hybrid cloud deployments.

Added to which, the Brits also lead the way when it comes to public cloud services with almost twice as many UK companies reporting multi-cloud use as elsewhere. Arguably, that was because the survey found UK decision makers much more likely to be swayed by the scalability and cost benefits compared to other countries.

So, one clear takeaway from the survey is that there are huge differences when it comes to the rate at which companies are moving to hybrid cloud. And huge differences, too, when it comes to the drivers behind that rate of change with some, like the UK for example, citing flexibility of choice as the biggest benefit for going hybrid while others are hoping for interoperability and application mobility.

All of which makes it hard to predict when this particular trough of disillusionment will be left behind. It clearly won’t be this year but there is a high level of optimism with 71% of companies planning to move both new and existing applications to cloud platforms over the next three years. So while stories of the death of the legacy data centre may have been exaggerated it is coming, just not quite as soon as some may have been expecting.

Experts featured:

Dom Polonieck

General Manager, Sales, Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa region


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