New research suggests that, contrary to the view held by some pundits, the economic malaise will not prompt IT buyers to flee to their nearest computing cloud.

Accenture- and Microsoft-backed services firm Avanade's poll of UK C-suite executives and IT decision makers found that 75 per cent of users of "proprietary IT systems" did not see their appetites for the cloud model whetted by the downturn, and 25 per cent said the fiscal environment had actually cooled their interest. Against that picture, 27 per cent of current cloud users said that the recessionary backdrop would encourage them to make more use of cloud technology.

The numbers will surprise those observers that expect restriction on traditional IT spending to accelerate adoption of alternative models that reduce the need for capital expenditure. In a recent column for CIO, for example, Mike Altendorf, co-founder of another services firm, Conchango, reported sharpening interest in cloud models.

A likely cause of the confusion is varying interpretations of what constitutes ‘cloud computing'. Many industry watchers define the cloud through platforms such as Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud where internet-based resources can be dynamically allocated to applications and services as an alternative to in-house computing environments. However, others, including Avanade, view it as a catch-all term for software as a service (SaaS), web-based applications and storage, capacity-on-demand and utility pricing.

Even so, Avanade's finding of limited interest in such capabilities also contrasts with some market indicators. For example, SaaS pioneers Salesforce.com and NetSuite are continuing to see sharp (over 30 per cent) annual revenue growth compared to many enterprise software veterans.

However, Avanade did concede that cloud computing will make for radical change in the ways IT is deployed. Avanade UK general manager Ian Jordan said that cloud computing will "fundamentally challenge the way outsourcers operate".