During the previous large-scale attempt to move IT applications and infrastructure to the cloud, a little over 10 years ago, the main adopters were small businesses and start-ups, while corporations mostly watched from the sidelines.
Things seem to be changing this time around. Both corporate and government cloud initiatives are popping up regularly in the headlines, indicating that we are seeing a different attitude and adoption pattern in 2011, compared with 2001. To cite just a few recent examples:
• The U.S. government is preparing to move about 75 agency-identified programs to cloud/Web-based computing to comply with its new “cloud-first” policy, according to the Washington Post. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra wants to shift 25% of the government’s annual $80 billion IT spending to cloud computing. The government currently has just under 2,100 data centers (larger than 500 sq. ft. each, both owned and leased) and plans to close 800 of them over the next four years.
• A new survey underlines these government initiatives. In a survey of 137 federal IT professionals in February, the publication saw a jump in use of cloud services, with 29% saying their agencies are now using cloud services, up 10 points from a year ago. Another 29% plan to begin using cloud within 12 months.
• IBM recently reported a list of new software-as-a-service (SaaS) corporate clients including American Airlines, CARFAX, Frito-Lay, IndiaFirst Life Insurance Co., Shriram Transport Finance Company Ltd., and 7-Eleven. IBM’s SaaS portfolio ranges from business process management to collaboration, social business, Web analytics, B2B commerce, supply-chain management, marketing, and enterprise systems management.
• IBM also last week that it signed a virtual desktop/cloud contract with The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., in January. The Hartford, already an IBM customer, will transition its virtual desktop environment to IBM’s desktop cloud solution. IBM will continue to manage The Hartford’s data center operations and virtualize its server network at IBM’s Boulder, Colo. facility and The Hartford’s own center in Hartford, Conn.
Action Item: What’s notable in these examples is that the customer — or a business unit within the larger organization -- is typically moving to specific cloud applications in a deliberate way, rather than making a rapid, organization-wide transition from traditional IT to cloud computing. That larger transition may come later, but the lesson in the details here is that large customers move slowly and require an orderly process and clear definition of the value (cost-savings, broader access to applications, greater manageability, etc.) if they are going to change the way they do things. In IBM’s case, some of these firms have been Big Blue customers for awhile, so IBM is a natural partner for them to turn to for an important IT transformation. As much as cloud computing connotes leading-edge sexiness, big businesses have time-tested processes for making a change. Most are happy to be trailing-edge adopters if that means getting the details right.