Monday, December 1, 2008

Forrester-Cassatt webcast poll: enterprises not cloudy -- yet

There are lots of great resources out there if you're interested in cloud computing (no, really?). Some are a little more caught up in the hype, some less so. The trick is distinguishing between the two. We dug up some interesting stats in our recent webcast with Forrester Research that we thought were worth highlighting and adding to the conversation, hopefully tending toward the "less hype/more useful" side of the equation. But you be the judge.

First, some quick background on the Cassatt-Forrester webcast: it was a live event featuring Cassatt's chief scientist Steve Oberlin and James Staten, principal analyst at Forrester Research, held Nov. 20. We had both speakers give their take on aspects of cloud computing. James gave a really good run-down of his/Forrester's take on what defines cloud computing, the positives and negatives organizations will run into, plus discussed examples of what a few companies are actually doing today. He cited a project from the New York Times in which they made 11 million newspaper articles from 1851-1922 available as PDFs -- for a total cost of $240 using Amazon EC2 and S3 (and, no, I didn't forget a few zeroes. The actual cost was indeed $240).

James gave an overview of platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service offerings out there today, plus advice to IT Ops on how you should experiment with the cloud -- including a suggestion to build an internal cloud inside the four walls of your data center. All in all, he left you with the feeling that cloud computing is indeed real, but really was asking IT ops folks what they're doing about it. (Translation: you can't afford to just sit on your hands on this one...)

Steve Oberlin's comments used James' thoughts about building an internal cloud as a jumping-off point. He explained a bit about how Cassatt could help IT build a cloud-style set-up internally using the IT resources they already have in their data centers. The main concept he talked about was having a way to use internal clouds to get the positives of cloud computing, but to do so incrementally. No "big bang" approach. And, how to help customers find a way to get around the negatives that cause concern about today's cloud offerings.

And that's where some of the interesting stuff comes in.

On the webcast, we asked some polling questions to get a feel for where people were coming from on the cloud computing topic. Some of the results:

To most, cloud computing is a data center in the clouds. There are many definitions of what cloud computing actually is. OK, that's no surprise. For the webinar attendees, it wasn't just virtualized server hosting (though 35% said it was). It wasn't just SaaS (though 49% said that was their definition). It wasn't just a virtualized infrastructure (the answer for 53%). By far the largest chunk -- 78% of the webinar attendees -- said it was an entire "data center in the clouds." And that was before James Staten offered his definition (one Steve liked, too): "a pool of highly scalable, abstracted infrastructure, capable of hosting end-customer applications, that is billed by consumption."

Most people haven't even started cloud computing yet. Of all the data we gathered from the webinar, this was the one that most starkly showed where people are with cloud computing. Or rather, where they aren't. We asked "what is your company currently using cloud computing for?" 70% replied that they are not using it yet. James said Forrester's most recent research echoes these results. So, there's a long way to go. Some were starting to experiment with websites/microsites, rich Internet applications, and internal applications of some sort. Those were all single-digit percentage responses. So what was the most frequently selected application type, aside from "none"? Grid/HPC applications (9%).

Security, SLAs, and compliance: lots and lots of hurdles for cloud computing. We asked about the most significant hurdles that webinar attendees' organizations faced with cloud computing. The answers were frankly not very surprising: they are the same things we've been hearing from large companies and government agencies for months now. 76% cite security as the cloud's biggest obstacle for their organization. 62% said service levels and performance guarantees. 60% said compliance, auditing, and logging. As if to underscore all of this, nobody clicked the "cloud computing has no hurdles" button. Not that we expected them to, but, hey, we're optimistic.

By the way, we don't take these results to mean that all is lost for cloud computing. On the contrary, it's these negatives and hurdles that people see that we think we've got some solutions for at Cassatt. In any case, these simple polls from our webcast just scratch the surface and beg for some follow-up research. In the meantime, if you're interested in hearing the webcast firsthand, you can listen to and watch a full replay here (registration required). If you'd like the slides, drop us an e-mail at

Feel free to post your thoughts on these results.

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