The devil really is in the details. When you’re doing research, it’s great to see data that reinforces trends you’ve identified in the past. That continuity validates your previous work, especially when those studies are repeated on a regular basis. In channel research, there’s also the hope and expectation that the findings will show steady progress and highlight potential new opportunities for solution providers.
But something surprising occurred with CompTIA’s new cloud computing research.
At first glance, it appeared that businesses had taken a step back from where they were two years ago. While most companies still placed themselves in the middle two categories of CompTIA’s cloud adoption cycle, there was a shift backwards instead of the typically anticipated forward movement in the numbers. There was a drop in the number of firms indicating secondary migrations between different cloud models. And when it came to SaaS—the most common cloud model—every application listed in the survey indicated a reduction in cloud usage in 2016 when compared to the 2014 study.
Since the new survey was mostly unchanged from previous versions, there was little chance that people had been tripped up by deviations in the verbiage. In fact, upon thorough review of the data and side discussions with a few experts, we found the opposite to be true: People are more familiar today with cloud terminology and their responses indicate a deeper understanding of the cloud model and a right-sizing of the market.
Go back to the applications companies are running in the cloud. According to the companies surveyed in the 2014 study, analytics/business intelligence was the third most popular cloud application. While it’s true that many organizations are pursuing SaaS analytics applications thanks to their availability and accessibility, it seemed a little odd that so many companies would have improved their data practices enough to start using more sophisticated software. The finding that 35% of businesses are using cloud analytics/BI seems more reasonable, as do the top three SaaS selections in 2016—email, Web presence and business productivity.
If companies are beginning to look past cloud-washing techniques and are becoming more familiar with the details of true cloud systems, it makes sense that they would refine their responses around usage. It doesn’t mean that the overall market is shrinking—Gartner still projects double-digit growth in cloud revenue for the next several years—but it’s more likely that the adoption rates will be more measured as organizations continue to transform their IT architecture and business operations.
As with SaaS applications, several aspects of current cloud adoption are relevant, even if comparisons to previous data don’t show smooth trending. Companies continue to see many cloud computing benefits, with cost savings again becoming a priority as these solutions have a greater impact on overall architectures rather than the more isolated systems. Secondary migrations are still leading to a multi-cloud approach, where monitoring and management are complex, yet critical. And the level of effort needed for cloud transitions remains greatest in the later stages of adoption where businesses are transforming processes and workflow.
When we look back, perhaps we did sense that the market would hit a few of these bumps in the road. Our previous cloud computing report noted some fatigue around definitions, but it also showed that end-users interest in the details would grow over the long run. That happened a lot quicker than we anticipated. The conversations around cloud have to be more precise today as companies continue to drive these infrastructure and solution transformations.
Seth Robinson is Senior Director of Technology Analysis for CompTIA