UK CIOs at large organisations are still seeking clarity and "defined value" from cloud services vendors, according to research from Xantus Consulting.

There is obvious enthusiasm for cloud-based solutions, but also real frustration with vendor offerings.

Drew Whitehead, head of IT architecture at Aviva, said of the cloud: “I absolutely expect that in the next 12-24 months we will find ways to leverage our cloud-based services to work more effectively with our partners.

“Being able to make use of emerging capabilities and adopting increasingly flexible ways of working will generate competitive advantage. Companies that can’t do this will be disadvantaged.”

Adrian Steel, head of infrastructure management at Royal Mail, said: "An IT department in the public sector is probably going to have to lose 25 percent of its staff, and budgets are going to be capped by 25 percent or more over the next five years. This means doing things as cheaply as possible. The cloud is perfect for overcoming this.”

In the report though, the large majority of CIOs (86 percent) felt that vendors are using the term "cloud" generically to sell products and services without being specific about "what it means", and almost half (45 percent) appealed for "greater differentiation" in products.

Despite such concerns, says the Xantus report, almost a quarter of firms are already using cloud services, with a further third planning to join them within the next six months. This rises to 73 percent within the next two years.  

Over a quarter (27 per cent) of CIOs are currently spending between 30 and 40 percent of their budget on cloud-based activities. The majority (76 percent) felt a return on investment of up to 25 percent "was realistic", with agility, flexibility and business continuity all seen as major benefits of cloud computing.

For those not already adopting the cloud, the challenge and complexity of integrating cloud applications and data services into existing IT infrastructure was currently the most significant block to implementation.

Mac Scott, Xantus associate director and head of architecture, said: “It’s clear that everyone has big expectations of the cloud and most can see a compelling proposition in the long-term. But vendors still have a significant task in clarifying their message and products as well as demonstrating value to CIOs."

Xantus commissioned in depth research of 51 CIOs at UK organisations and also questioned a number of its own large clients for its “A Clearer Horizon? Do CIOs have more clarity about cloud computing” report.

Earlier this month travel firm Thomas Cook signed long-term cloud-based IT outsourcing contracts with Accenture.

Thomas Cook signed a new ten-year contract with Accenture and a three-year extension to an existing ten-year deal with the outsourcer, with both contracts relying on cloud-based infrastructures for the delivery of multiple business services.