We sit in a corner of the IT management world that gives us a unique perspective. We work with businesses battling the traditional set of problems in IT management—but our perspective is also colored by seeing businesses grapple with an entirely new set of challenges, ones that rise and evolve quickly.
We spend most of our time talking to IT people. So we were not surprised that the past year has gone roughly the way we expected. A gravitation toward the public cloud as hybridization has increasingly become the norm. Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are adopting software as a service (SaaS) with greater and greater velocity. Enterprises are rationalizing the balance between public and private cloud. But the motion is unidirectional: We are all going to the cloud.
Additionally, on the client side, recent sales numbers from the three leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), as of this writing, show an uptick in client computer sales, largely due to sales to businesses. We think this is driven in no insignificant part by challenges with the end of life of Windows XP.
The motion of phone and tablet apps as a force in changing computing and user behavior at work is undeniable, but these devices are slow to replace the productivity capabilities of traditional client computers. So for businesses, we believe the moniker “PC plus” is a more precise characterization of this multi-device era.
Cloud services are a great way to solve challenges presented by the end of life of Windows XP and the mobility/bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement. We predict that 2014 will bring a litany of services from a range of vendors that effortlessly address these obstacles. The cloud offers a sort of coping strategy to deal with app delivery and a variety of other legacy problems associated with multi-generational skips in desktop OS and hardware, along with the adjacent challenges related to BYOD.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) makes a similar promise, but falls short of delivering because of its high cost and poor user experience. This great wave of change in end-user computing is a driver for the move to the cloud; the Windows XP end-of-life date in 2014 is a forcing function to that end.
We further predict that 2014 will warm more business customers to SaaS offerings and we will see it penetrate further up-market. Mid-sized enterprises will follow SMBs down the path of least resistance, gaining the efficiencies and capabilities once limited to only the largest enterprises or the most audacious IT professionals.
The democratization of IT is happening right now with simple, affordable, and increasingly abundant SaaS solutions for problems old and new, which make it possible for any business of any size to get the benefits of enterprise-grade IT management. We think it is an overstatement to say that SaaS will dominate software spend in 2014, but it will grow considerably. We think it is fair to say that SaaS will eventually be the only way software is sold.
Customer objections to the public cloud around trust and security are diminishing. The increasingly broad adoption of services like Salesforce.com, Box, and Office 365 are objective proof of this. Because of the success of these services for knowledge workers, we predict that 2014 will be a pivotal year that will push any lingering concerns to the margins and broad mainstream adoption will happen within IT, particularly of public cloud services like SaaS-based IT management solutions and platforms that can power legacy applications.
Cloud solutions—whether infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), or SaaS—are the most efficient vehicle to accomplish the goals of IT. The cloud brings data center capacity that is certified to meet the stringent industry standards, helping to ensure regulatory compliance. Business owners have peace of mind that comes at a considerably lower cost than operating and maintaining a data center of their own to target compliance levels. Simultaneously, more and more solutions are emerging, giving businesses of all sizes more flexibility and more options.
All of these factors will raise the value and acceptability of cloud solutions. That acceptance will spread and we predict that there will be some limited EU policy reform by the end of 2014 to help normalize cloud services globally as a new standard for automated service delivery.
Many IT organizations and their executive management are re-examining IT priorities. As they do, an increasing number will capitalize in the coming year on the value and flexibility of a cloud solution to address both strategic and non-strategic IT.