Cloud Computing Survey: IT Leaders See Big Promise, Have Big Security Questions

Cloud computing has become the most over-hyped tech buzzword this year, but CIO's new survey of IT leaders shows that despite security concerns, enterprises see real promise for flexibility and savings from the cloud.

Cloud computing has become too popular a term for its own good. As Oracle chief Larry Ellison pointed out recently, so many tech marketers are using the term "cloud computing" in so many contexts that it can almost mean anything—and thus often means nothing. Still, a new CIO survey of IT and business leaders shows that Ellison's dismissal of cloud as a disruptive force in the technology industry is premature. Among our survey respondents, 58 percent say cloud computing will cause a radical shift in IT and 47 percent say they're already using it or actively researching it.

Just 18 percent of our survey respondents call cloud computing a "passing fad."

CIO surveyed 173 IT and business leaders in August, 2008 to get first-hand feedback on what enterprises really think about cloud computing, and how, when and why they plan to deploy it in their enterprises. (Among our respondents, 54 percent are the head of IT at their company or business unit; 74 percent work at companies headquartered in the United States.)

For the purposes of the survey, we used a broad definition of cloud computing from market research firm Gartner: "a style of computing where massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided 'as a service' using Internet technologies to multiple external customers". Cloud computing offerings are often described in terms such as "on-demand services", "cloud services", "Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)", etc."

If you want a plain-English primer on cloud computing and what Google, Amazon and other vendors mean when they say "cloud," see CIO's jargon-busting blog on this topic.

One sentiment came through loud and clear in our survey: IT wants the flexibility and cost savings that cloud computing promises—the same kind of flexibility you've won from virtualization, which is a key enabling technology for the cloud. But you will not rush with regards to implementing use of the cloud. 54 percent of our respondents say that cloud computing is an evolving concept that will take years to mature. That's right in line with what CIOs told us earlier this year in our look at early cloud adopters, Cloud Computing: Tales from the Front.

Unsurprisingly, the number one factor stopping IT leaders from tapping into the cloud right away is security worries. A whopping 59 percent of our survey respondents say vendors have not adequately addressed security concerns related to on-demand offerings.

Read on for the details on what you and your peers say about cloud computing and how you are using it or planning to do so.

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