Microsoft Survey: Cloud 2.0 Opens Up Opportunities For Partners

Beyond Infrastructure

As cloud computing enters the mainstream, 451 Research asked 1,700 customers of hosting and cloud service providers across 10 countries what they wanted to get out of their cloud resources, and what vendors, and their affiliated solution providers, were they likely to buy services from.

The survey, "Beyond Infrastructure: Cloud 2.0 Signifies New Opportunities for Cloud Service Providers," was commissioned by Microsoft. Respondents, polled from December through March, came from companies across the spectrum of size and industry.

The people interviewed held a variety of positions in their respective organizations, including IT operations professionals, application developers and marketing professionals.

Here are some insights gleaned from the report.

Applications Are The Name of The Game

Nearly 70 percent of the opportunity for cloud service providers comes from hosting applications, according to 451's results.

Customers are looking to the cloud to deliver email and business applications, managed services such as backup and disaster recovery, and security services to manage threats, the report found.

"For today's cloud service providers, infrastructure has become only a small part of their overall service offering," said Aziz Benmalek, general manager of Microsoft's hosting service provider business.

A Mature Clientele

More than three-quarters of businesses polled are beyond the cloud discovery phase. They expect to have almost half of their applications deployed in a combination of private and public cloud environments within three years.

"This presents a significant opportunity for our service provider partners to provide value-added services to their customers. By offering these expanded services, cloud service providers will be able to drive additional consumption, increase revenue and serve as trusted advisers," according to Benmalek.

Decision-Makers At The Top

The 451 study found that the decision-making process for selecting service providers has substantially shifted.

"Today, decisions are being made at a much higher level than the traditional IT manager," the report read.

Fifty-two percent of respondents reported their CIO or CTO is a primary decision-maker in the evaluation of hosting and cloud services, followed closely by the CEO, who is a primary decision-maker for 44 percent of companies surveyed.

Windows Server 2003 Migrations

With Windows Server 2003 coming to end of life, there will be plenty of opportunities for cloud service providers to assist customers with migrations ahead of the July end-of-support date, the 451 report stated.

More than 70 percent of respondents said they had a formal Windows Server 2003 migration plan. For about half of them, that plan involves turning to hosting and cloud service providers.

Almost half of those doing migrations also expect to deploy a newer version of Windows Server in multiple on-premise and off-premise hybrid cloud environments, according to 451.

Top-Rated ISVs

The Microsoft-commissioned survey asked respondents what independent software vendors were most likely to win their business, or had already won their business.

Microsoft and IBM led the field of ISVs, both cited by roughly 13 percent of respondents. HP, India's HCL Technologies and Google all tied for third with 6 percent.

Amazon and Dell rounded out the field, with 4 percent and 3 percent of respondents rating them as their preferred software vendor, respectively.

Top-Rated VARs

451 also asked respondents to name the vendors whose VARs were most likely to win their business.

IBM's partners were the clear-cut leaders, cited by 18 percent of respondents. Microsoft's partners came next with 11 percent, followed by Amazon's with 8 percent and Dell's with 7 percent.

Top-Rated System Integrators

As for system integrators, based on their vendor alignments, IBM also notched a big lead -- one-quarter of respondents said IBM's SI partners would win their business.

Microsoft-aligned system integrators came second in the tally, cited by 13 percent of respondents.

Rockwell Automation, Oracle, Google and Cisco all brought up the rear with 3 percent.

Top-Rated Hosting Providers

IBM fared best, cited by half of those polled, as the hosting provider most likely to win their business.

Rackspace was named the hosting provider of choice by 27 percent of respondents, and CenturyLink, with infrastructure acquired through its Savvis acquisition, got 9 percent of the vote.

Top-Rated Cloud Providers

Microsoft led the pack when respondents were asked which cloud provider was most likely to win their business.

Thirty-two percent of respondents told 451 they were most likely to migrate to Microsoft's cloud. IBM's SoftLayer was the second most popular choice, cited by 23 percent of respondents, and Google came in third with 21 percent of the vote.

Amazon, by far the world's most popular public cloud, only was cited by 17 percent of respondents that 451 surveyed as the cloud provider most likely to win their business.

Cloud Expectations

Businesses are looking to the cloud to fulfill diverse needs. But when 451 Research asked companies participating in the survey what their highest expectation was for moving to a hosted or cloud computing environment, the results were surprising.

Cost savings and speeding time to market, which once were advertised as the main benefits of the cloud, had only 8 and 7 percent of respondents respectively choosing as heir highest expectations of a move to the cloud.

At the other end of the spectrum, 22 percent of respondents said their highest expectation was improved technology quality.

That was followed by 18 percent saying they expected a hosting or cloud environment to help grow their business, 13 percent looked for improved availability and another 13 percent expected better business service.