Let me start by saying that I have drunk the cloud Kool-Aid. I am a believer in its transformative power, and in the business models that it is enabling. I believe that the IT world will look very different in 10 years, and the 5-year differences will be noticeable. I believe in the success stories of the fresh young cloud-native companies.
But I also believe that you’ve got to get there from here. While I have the privilege of working with many smaller technology companies, including cloud-based start-ups, the vast majority of Gartner’s clients are mid-sized businesses and enterprises. Those clients have a vast array of existing IT investments, in both infrastructure and applications, as well as people, process, policies, and the like. Most of our clients are excited by the possibilities that the cloud is offering, and they’re interested in adopting all of it — SaaS, PaaS, IaaS. But they’ve got to figure out how to do it, how to make a sensible, risk-controlled move from what they’ve got today, including, importantly, the mindset and culture of what they have today, to the cloud future.
Our clients are looking for solutions to business needs. Many of them are also explicitly looking for an opportunity to use cloud for the sake of using cloud — to get their feet wet, to learn things, to satisfy the demands of a CEO or CFO, and so forth. As an analyst, my goal is to help my clients find solutions that they’ll be successful with. That’s not just purely about technology; I need to help clients find solutions that also work for their culture, their appetite for risk, their ability to manage change, the way they budget, the way they approach operations and applications and governance, the way they source solutions and manage vendors, their available personnel and their ability to learn new things, their timeframes and business needs, and so forth.
IT buyers are slowly transforming the way they think about cloud, as hype begins to give way to reality. We see people doing very sensible, pragmatic things with cloud IaaS, these days. For most organizations, it will be a five to ten year gradual transformation. The successful blending of old and new models, and the transitional models, are both critical parts to that transformation.
I think my feeling on these things is: Get excited, but don’t get excitable. Most of my research is pitched to people making decisions right now, which is typically about IT buyer immediate needs, and vendor one-year and two-year plans. With cloud, I often look at three-year and five-year scenarios, and we’re doing some ten-year scenarios as well, but that also involves having to think about the sequence and timeline for how things occur in the market.
Fast-evolving markets create and destroy new approaches, and there will always be transitional approaches, artifacts of “what tech is available at this stage” and “what customer mindset exists at this point”. The desires of customers at any given point should not necessarily be taken as the future direction of the market and what will lead to vendor success (or even customer success, ironically). Frankly, some of the things customers will ask for during the transition will be flat-out wacky and wrong. But it won’t change the fact that they want them.