Microsoft is now advertising the Microsoft Cloud in the up-market press like there is no tomorrow. The Cloud-word has become a talisman – an ill-defined concept that the marketing folk have run riot with. So no apologies for quoting the Rolling Stones – my generation after all!

Two developments that I have been involved with during the last few weeks have positively contributed to scoping the Cloud in more concrete and practical terms. The first was the publication of the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) white paper #14 ‘Cloud UK – The Normalisation of Cloud in a Hybrid IT Market’. The second was the EuroCloudUK 2014 Cloud Awards. [Here I must declare my interests: I chair the Cloud Industry Forum, and I chaired the judges panel for the EuroCloudUK Awards 2014.]

The CIF paper details the results of our fifth annual survey of how the Cloud is perceived, and trends in how it is being exploited in practical terms. The survey, conducted by Vanson Bourne in June this year, draws on the judgement of 250 UK senior IT and business decision makers in enterprises, small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs), and public sector organisations. The size, quality and diversity of the 250-strong panel surveyed ensures that the key insights gained each year are statistically sound – and so also any year-by-year trends that emerge.

There is detail in the CIF paper that rewards examination. The picture that emerges is of a reality steadily gaining ground (‘Does your company have any hosted or Cloud-based  services in use today’ scored 48% ‘Yes’  in 2010, 78% in 2014): but one that is still in its early days (‘How many different Cloud-based services does your company use today?’ scores 40-50% for a single service, depending on company size: around 70% for two services: much lower percentages for higher multiples).

The pointers are for onward development. ‘Does your company include consideration for Cloud Services within its wider IT strategy’ elicits a 79% ‘Yes’. ‘Do you consider infrastructure refresh to be an opportunity to adopt alternative deployment models such as Cloud IaaS/SaaS or third party hosting’ a 71% ‘Yes’.

And, looking to the longer term, when asked ‘Do you forsee a day when you will move your entire IT to Cloud-based services?’, some 45% could see this as a potential outcome.

Which makes the market insights gained in helping judge the EuroCloudUK 2014 Awards all the more relevant. Such exercises bring to a wider attention the younger, newer Cloud-based ventures from across the broad new landscape that the former Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit labels ‘the SMAC Stack – Social media, Mobility, Applications and Cloud’. I have judged the EuroCloudUK awards for three years now. The UK winners are placed into competition in the wider pan-European EuroCloud Awards culminating in a grand ceremony for the overall winners in Luxembourg September 30th. The hard work involved in reviewing several hundred entries is rewarded by gaining first hand insight into the wide range of new business models spawned by the Cloud.

Consider Techgate, whose core business model is the delivery of a highly resilient set of Cloud-based Disaster Recovery services.  They topped the Best Business Impact category for their reworking of the UK Avertising Standards Authority Disaster Recovery arrangements, not the least by reducing recovery times by 95% - a powerful example of the Cloud exploited in delivering effective risk management.  

CohesiveFT, winner of the IaaS/PaaS Best Offering category, is a young but clearly core player in the new markets shaped by the arrival of software-defined networking (SDN). As I noted in May the whole of data storage / data processesing / data networking is now becoming a software landscape, open to virtualization, integration, automation. Its flagship offer, VNS3, enables what CohesiveFT labels as Network Function Virualisation (NFV), so clients can now manage operations across a diversity of hybrid IT infrastructure that they would not otherwise directly control.

One of the joys of Vikram Pandit’s SMAC Stack is the innovation that goes into naming new ventures. Thus Fedr8 (geddit?) and its new SaaS capability Argentum, designed to speed the transformation of legacy applications into the Cloud – sophisticated ‘tools as services’  that deliver actionable business intelligence to enable companies to rework their complex, tightly coupled and rigid systems inheritance into loosely-coupled and agile SOA (Service Oriented Architectures) ‘in the Cloud’.  The well deserved winner of the Most Innovative Start-Up category.

Back to the market messages from the CIF 2014 survey. When asked ‘Do you forsee a day when you will move your entire IT to Cloud-based services?’, some 45% responded positively. Techgate, CohesiveFT, Fedr8 – three examples of young ventures that, each in their own way, are working creatively to deliver this future reality. A younger generation re-writing the Stones’ classic?  Hey! You! Get Onto My Cloud!