Some of the best research I found in 2014 came from CompTIA, including their 5th Annual Trends in Cloud Computing report, which was released in October and based on input from 400 end users involved in IT decision-making. If you’re a VAR, MSP, or cloud provider and not yet affiliated with CompTIA, I’d highly recommend checking out their site, research, and other resources.
What’s particularly interesting about this report is that it also includes an analyses of the changes in cloud computing over the past five years. Just five years ago, the cloud was merely “a potential game-changer” whereas today it’s become “an essential ingredient of modern IT.”
Despite such tremendous growth, several challenges remain for channel firms and end users. Of all the cloud-related challenges channel companies will face (e.g. price objections, security concerns), one of the biggest technical challenges is going to be managing customers’ multi-cloud environments. CompTIA’s research revealed a four-part transition phase end users go through with the cloud, starting with an experimental phase where end users develop their proofs of concept. Next, they move to the non-critical use phase where they make a larger investment in the cloud, but keep their most sensitive data on premise. The third phase is full production, which includes moving business-critical IT systems to the cloud and the final stage is transformed IT where companies actually change the way they work to reap the full benefit of cloud computing.
What CompTIA’s research found, also, is that as companies have experimented with the cloud and moved various applications in piecemeal fashion, it’s led to another phenomena: the hybrid cloud. For example, a company may move a number of applications to a public cloud provider in the early stages of adoption, then move some of those applications to a private cloud and then move some back on premise while leaving some with the original cloud provider. This creates a highly complex IT environment, and it makes future cloud projects that much more challenging and time-consuming to plan and implement. Added to this is the fact that channel firms need to account for rogue IT projects where line of business managers procure technology without involving the IT department. Combine all these cloud initiatives and you can see how messy the cloud landscape can get.
Here’s the good news: If the cloud was easy and end users used a single cloud provider for all their IT needs, it would greatly diminish the need for the IT channel. Because, despite all the changes in IT and the cloud, one principle remains unchanged: Wherever IT is the most complex, that’s where the channel is needed most.