IT professionals prioritise Windows 7 upgrade, but cloud takes a back seat

Windows 7 upgrade will drive virtualisation but businesses are slow to take up cloud computing

The TechTarget 2012 IT priorities survey found Windows 7 the main focus for IT decision makers this year, with 41% of those polled calling it a top priority.

With just two years to go before support for Windows XP ends, the clock is ticking for IT to migrate desktop and laptop users onto Windows 7. Windows Server migration to Windows Server 8 was a rated a high and medium priority for 73% of respondents, suggesting IT departments are planning a major Windows refresh this year.

While Windows 7 is clearly on many people's budget, unlike previous desktop OS upgrades, users have a genuine choice. First, there is IT consumerisation. It would be foolhardy of any IT department to discard the desktop and let users run rampant. The market for managing users' devices is quite new, technology is immature and there is little in the way of best practice. None-the-less, some businesses will let their staff run enterprise applications on their own devices.

This will drive adoption of VDI, datacentre computing, storage, backup and authentication – as the survey shows – although only 27% of those asked said they are actively implementing VDI. However, 57% gave desktop virtualisation a medium priority, suggesting that, while it is important, VDI is still not wide enough deployed to be regarded as a natural progression for desktop IT.

What may be holding back IT decision-makers is that any virtualisation project requires investment in the back-end systems, meaning datacentres, storage and networking. The survey shows datacentre consolidation for 86% of people, since it goes hand-in-hand with server virtualisation. In fact, just 7% of those asked rated server virtualisation as a low priority.

Licensing issues may also hold back adoption. In its report, What Can Desktop Virtualization Do for Your Organization? Gartner notes that desktop virtualisation provides IT departments with a mechanism to abstract the access device from corporate content. 

“One of the key benefits of desktop virtualisation is the flexibility it provides in delivering a work space and the necessary applications. Unfortunately, many independent software vendor licensing agreements do not formally acknowledge, install or access mechanisms that use non-native Windows installs,” says the report.  

Gartner says lack of virtualisation support may limit or lead to zero maintenance support, or a potential breach of the license agreement, with associated penalties. “Even when vendors do support a given install or access scenario, the complexity of troubleshooting issues may still result in increased incident and problem management costs.”

Cloud computing

Clouding computing is the most hyped technology fad currently, so it is no surprise that just 20% of those asked gave it a high priority. For most (60%), cloud computing is a medium priority. Too many unknowns have yet to be answered clearly by suppliers before cloud becomes mainstream. As such, only 8% said external cloud projects will be a high priority for them in 2012.

The industry claims cloud security is not a major barrier, but businesses are concerned about the far-reaching implications of the US Patriot Act, which may allow US officials to access any data stored on a US cloud provider’s infrastructure. There is also the issue of lock-in, which should not be ignored. Car manufacturer Honda, for instance, deployed a hybrid cloud service to support car launches from ICM Phoenix. However, the company found it took several weeks to migrate from its existing provider.

Some experts believe the pricing of cloud is entirely the wrong approach for the industry, which will inevitably lead to cloud providers and software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies going out of business or being acquired, leading to uncertainty among IT directors and CIOs. Recently, Oracle acquired Taleo, a SaaS company specialising in human capital management, after its surprise purchase of CRM SaaS company RightNow last year. Rival SAP bought SuccessFactors.

Antony Miller, managing partner, TechMarketView, said: "The IT industry has created the illusion it can offer flexible pricing through SaaS, but without the cost base. The SaaS companies will have to change their business model. Flexibility comes at a price.”

Business's procurement processes may also act as a barrier to the pay-per-use flexibility offered by cloud computing. "It’s rare to find an enterprise finance department that loves a pay-per-use service. Most enterprises have based their procurement, payment and accounting systems on long-term, negotiated contracts and consistent bills from month to month," note Forrester analysts James Staten and Lauren Nelson.

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