For all the hand-wringing invectives that have been launched at Amazon Web Services and public cloud computing, it's generally clear that Amazon is winning. Handily. Concerns about data security, performance, and control linger, but new research from Forrester suggests that they all pale in comparison to the holy grail of Getting Stuff Done Fast.
Not that this should surprise us.
Some of enterprise computing's biggest success stories, from Microsoft SharePoint to Linux, all took off because they enabled enterprise IT or a line of business to get things done with a minimum of bureaucratic overhead. I call out SharePoint and Linux, in particular, because they demonstrate that this isn't a matter of open versus closed, but rather a case of ease of use and speed of deployment.
Or, as Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady argues, "Convenience trumps just about everything" when it comes to cloud adoption.
In Forrester's newly published Q3 2012 Global Cloud Developer Online Survey, developers make it clear that their adoption of public cloud computing has little to do with corporate standards and everything to do with productivity:
Is this a problem? Perhaps.
The Impact Of A Cloud Land Rush
James Watters, head of Product, Marketing, and Ecosystem for VMware's Cloud Foundry, an open-source cloud offering, concedes that "less security-sensitive workloads around web mobile and new app development" may be prime for the public cloud, but points to the need for a more controlled operating environment for "institutional decisions." Research from The Big Data Group seems to support this argument. In other words, individuals within enterprises may go with the cloud to escape corporate bureaucracy, but that bureaucracy is a firm reality for the majority of mission critical applications.
I can't help but think that such an argument smacks of Clay Christensen's "Innovator's Dilemma," wherein big important vendors serve big important customers for big important applications…while the good enough, easy-to-use technology steals a march on them. Of course enterprises are keeping their important applications running behind the firewall…today. Until they don't.
After all, Forrester's survey respondents show a clear willingness to run internal business applications in the cloud:
Cloud As Platform For Innovation
Importantly, while a significant amount of public cloud adoption is for more traditional storage, compute, and RDBMS workloads, the real growth (10 to 15 percentage points year-over-year, according to Forrrester) is in new technologies like NoSQL and mobile back-ends, among other things. Such applications may not seem mission critical today, but they are arguably the bedrock of the next few decades of enterprise computing, and they are being run in the cloud. In this same survey, most respondents acknowledged that 50 to 60 percent of all new code they're writing is being run in the cloud.
It could be that Forrester found an unrepresentative sample of developers (though other research, including a recent Dimensional Research report reviewed by cloud evangelist Ben Kepes, supports Forrester's findings). And it could be that some of the early cloud euphoria will fade as enterprises take back control. Gareth Rushgrove, a developer at Government Digital Service, part of the UK Government, indicates that he's "part of a group clawing back control." I'm sure he's not alone. At some point, enterprises will try to regain control of their infrastructure for risk management, security, and other reasons cited by Sean Chittenden, CEO of Stackjet, and others.
But is it too late? John Forstrom, strategic accounts executive at RightScale, thinks so. As he stresses:
The agility gained by AWS is now and will continue forcing CIOs to re-evaluate security policies. Three years ago it was "No AWS". Now it's - "only these apps can go in AWS". The change will continue because IT in general is not building anything internally that can compete with the on-demand, self service, easy to consume compute and associated services Until they do the IT leakage continues.
Getting Stuff Done Trumps All
Again, such a phenomenon isn't peculiar to public cloud computing. Open source changed software development and adoption forever, in large part because of how it streamlined adoption. SaaS has emboldened lines of business to embrace solutions like Workday and Salesforce. And for the enterprise developer, Amazon and the public cloud has lowered barriers to Getting Stuff Done. In sum, all the very real concerns about the cloud, including the very real possibility that AWS and other cloud services may actually be more expensive over the long haul, "ignores the most important feature of cloud computing: a low barrier to entry," to quote O'Grady again.
Small wonder, then, that against this backdrop of developers turning to AWS, roughly 61 percent of the developers Forrester surveyed expect to maintain or grow their use of Amazon EC2. The next most popular public cloud among survey respondents, Microsoft Azure, will see approximately four percent keep their Azure use static while 19 percent plan to grow its use.
Maybe they're building toy applications. Maybe they'll be forced to work within the constraints of corporate bureaucracy when it comes time to move their applications into production.
Or maybe, just maybe, convenience will ultimately trump all, or most, concerns about the public cloud.
Charts courtesy of Forrester. Title image courtesy of Shutterstock.