Within the next three years, 90 percent of businesses plan to use or deploy clouds. That figure reflects an 18 percent rise over the 72 percent of organizations that are employing cloud technologies today.
And as with any maturing technology, the ratio of early adopters to veterans will shift dramatically.
Whereas only 13 percent of those adopting the cloud today have "substantially implemented" it, in three years, that figure is forecast to hit 41 percent, a 251 percent increase. On the flip-side, the percentage of those organizations that are piloting the cloud will shrink, from 38 percent today to 21 percent next year.
These are the findings of a study conducted by IBM's Institute for Business Value. They are part of the report, "The Power of Cloud: Driving Business Model Innovation," which was compiled from the responses of 572 business and technology execs.
IBM also found that the cloud isn't just the playground of well-heeled corporations. SMBs "are by no means left out of the game," according to the report. "In fact, 67 percent of companies with revenues less than US$1 billion and 76 percent of those with revenues between US$1 and 20 billion have adopted cloud at some level."
The top reason cited for cloud shopping among businesses is increased collaboration with external partners. "Competitive cost advantages through vertical integration" emerged as another top reason, followed closely by opening new delivery channels.
However, says IBM, those ambitions are often tempered by data management challenges.
Cloud management is being hampered by "virtual image sprawl," according to the company. For instance, the size of virtual images -- around 5 to 20 gigabytes, typically -- can strain IT infrastructures. Large enterprises can have 5,000 to 20,000 virtual machines. And that number is growing.
Daniel Sabbah, general manager, IBM Tivoli Software, states, "Virtual images are tripling every two years, outpacing the doubling in compute power and essentially flat IT budgets."
He adds, "With current operating practices, every two years, you'd need 1.5 times the physical infrastructure to support cloud and twice the labor. That's an unsustainable cost and management problem which is the exact opposite of the promise of cloud."
To address this, IBM launched new software called SmartCloud at Pulse 2012. IT giant says that it can automate the creation of cloud services on private, public or hybrid clouds.
With SmartCloud Provisioning, IBM believes firms will be drawn to the prospect of deploying cloud services in minutes rather than hours. The hypervisor-agnostic, IaaS offering can quickly configure and propagate virtual machines using preconfigured images. SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center brings similar levels hands-off management to virtual storage environments.
Arriving soon is SmartCloud Continuous Delivery software that will enhance these capabilities and expand self-service options by integrating tech from IBM's Rational lifecycle management software and from recently acquired Green Hat.
Securing the cloud, particularly mobile devices that connect to it, is also part of the plan. IBM's new Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices delivers monitoring and policy enforcement for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Symbian devices. In the event of a lost or stolen device, it also supports remote wipes.
Lastly, SmartCloud Control Desk brings analytics and reporting to the platform. According to the company, it's an evolution of Tivoli service request and configuration change solutions that will extend their IT management capabilities to SmartCloud-enabled infrastructures.