IaaS Goes Mainstream

Study shows production systems rapidly moving into cloud-services environments.

IaaS Goes Mainstream

Public cloud adoption appears to have moved beyond the testing and development phase, with more than two-thirds of organizations in a recent study reporting they are now running mission-critical workloads in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) environments.

The study, commissioned by virtualization specialist VMware and conducted by analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), examined the public-cloud usage patterns of 243 IT and business professionals in North America and Western Europe. More than 80 percent of reported that they are running production workloads on IaaS, with 67 percent characterizing the workloads as “mission-critical.”

In addition, 70 percent said they use cloud storage services, 58 percent said they are using cloud servers, and 53 percent are leveraging disaster recovery services using IaaS.

Compatibility Important

In the IaaS model, users pay a provider for access to virtual servers, storage and networks on which they are able to deploy and run operating systems and applications of their choice. It allows companies to avoid hardware and software investments, in return for paying usage fees.

In the VMware/ESG study, 83 percent of respondents indicated the underlying technology used to deliver IaaS was of some level of importance to them, with nearly half citing it as a very important or critical factor. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of respondents reported that it was also important that their cloud service providers’ infrastructure technologies were compatible with their internal private cloud /virtualized data center.

“The study demonstrates that IaaS from cloud service providers is seeing broad adoption by mainstream business for business-critical applications and data, moving beyond test and development,” said Mathew Lodge, VMware’s vice president of cloud services. “As IaaS adoption grows, so does the importance of strong customer service and support, as well as the quality of the underlying technology. Compatibility with existing virtualized data centers and private clouds was also key.”

IaaS Spending Surges

A separate report by the global research firm Pierre Audoin Consultants (PAC) notes that the IaaS market is expanding rapidly, forecasting that it will generate roughly $39 billion in worldwide expenditures in 2012 — up from $27 billion in 2011 — and is set to reach $90 billion by 2016. Those figures cover both public and private IaaS deployments.

“Traditional IT services have been widely based on complexity and heterogeneity, while cloud represents standards and ease of use,” said Karsten Leclerque, PAC principal consultant for outsourcing and cloud. “This is why practically all suppliers are currently trying to determine their future positioning along the cloud value chain, aiming to defend existing business, and looking to tap new revenue streams. There will be a new competitive landscape as well as new cooperation models emerging from the cloud trend.”

Despite the impressive growth of public IaaS services there have still been obstacles to broader adoption. Privacy and availability of data and resources are often at the heart of cloud discussions. CIOs also fear an increased complexity of IT services management when including third-party cloud solutions into their IT architectures. Nevertheless, IaaS and other cloud models are likely to remain on top of IT agendas in the coming years.

“Users are well aware of the various benefits and are strongly interested in exploiting them; but they should not blindly follow the cloud trend,” Leclerque said. “Cloud usage promises many advantages, such as potential cost reduction, and access to resources without the need to invest in own infrastructures. The concept is still emerging, though, and there are many different concepts and offerings in the market, with different security and service levels, that might or might not fit your needs.”