The virtuous circle of cloud adoption

circular cloud

It just turned 2019 and people are still saying the cloud is “just someone else’s computers.”

Excuse me, I lost sight of my keyboard because my eyes were rolling too hard.

Fortunately, that antediluvian attitude is disappearing from IT departments.  What’s bringing that about, according to a recent survey (pdf) from open-source Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) foundation Cloud Foundry, is that people are actually using the cloud.

You see, it’s not the business goals of saving money or cultural reasons of wanting to embrace the newest technologies. Instead, “cloud adoption is a virtuous cycle—the more companies adopt and then familiarize themselves with cloud technologies, the more they continue to adopt. As companies witness the immediate benefit of using the cloud, they expand their usage.”

In other words, you can tell management of cloud’s virtues to improving the bottom line or increasing productivity until you’re blue in the face. They’ll listen. But, real adoption comes from companies walking the walk of cloud usage.

This suggests the best way to bring your company to the cloud is to start with small projects. Only by showing the executive suite what the cloud can do for their company can you really get them to support a move to the cloud.

As this process continues, people move from a primitive understanding of the cloud to a sophisticated one. You can see this from the report as 74 percent of survey respondents now believe they can confidently explain platform-as-a-service (PaaS) to colleagues. That’s an 11 percent increase from February 2016. Simultaneously, 49 percent now feel they explain containers. That’s a 24 percent increase in two years.

That came not because they’ve been reading my articles — although that couldn’t hurt! — but because they’re using these technologies. For example, the survey found 87 percent of professionals are at least evaluating, if not using, containers in their businesses.

Companies are no longer deciding whether they should use the cloud, but which clouds and technologies they should be using. As Cloud Foundry noted, “Companies have settled on cohesive cloud strategies, and the market is coalescing around these choices.”

With this, companies are committing to cloud providers. In the last year, there was a 13 percent increase in IT decision makers who’ve selected their cloud providers for broad deployments. At the same time, the public cloud is continuing to grow with a 17 percent increase. And this isn’t coming at the expense of the private cloud, where there’s been a six percent increase in use.

This isn’t just people moving storage to the cloud, a la Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). 50 percent of the decision makers reported they’re now developing 60 percent or more of their applications on the cloud. That’s an increase of 13 points in Platform-as-a-Service cloud services usage.

That said, the newer techniques of cloud-native computing and continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) haven’t caught fire yet. Just 25 percent of IT decision makers report developing primarily with cloud native application approaches. That said, nearly half report they’re exploring cloud native application development.

40 percent of companies are re-architecting and refactoring legacy apps to the cloud. At the same time, about a third of them are doing lift-and-shift of their legacy apps to the cloud.

What’s driving this move of applications to the cloud? We’ve gotten slowly better at mastering PaaS technologies. Back in February 2016, almost 40 percent of respondents said mastering cloud technologies was their bigger obstacle. Today, only 33 percent say selecting and integrating the right tools and technologies is what’s slowing their applications’ move to the cloud.

Although this report doesn’t delve into it, there still aren’t enough cloud-savvy developers to go around. In the over-a-dozen technology shows I went to in 2018, every company I spoke to was desperately searching for sysadmins and programmers who understood the cloud.

So, the Cloud Foundry is right in thinking our growing familiarity and comfort with the cloud has led to a virtuous cloud cycle. That said, for this to continue in 2019 we’ll need more and more cloud masters to feed the cloud’s ever increasing demand for IT professionals who get it.

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