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Europe is playing catch-up with the US on cloud adoption, research suggests

Report by O'Reilly media shines a light on how cloud adoption is progressing across the globe, and how this could be affecting follow-on use of other technologies too

Lack of investment and a continued over-reliance on legacy technologies mean European enterprises are falling behind their global counterparts when it comes to using cloud, research suggests.

According to O’Reilly Media’s Evolving data infrastructure report,cloud adoption by European enterprises is occurring at a slower pace compared to businesses operating in other parts of the world, particularly the US.

This is based on the responses the firm received to a survey it ran in October 2018, where it polled more than 3,200 organisations across the globe about the maturity of their cloud adoption plans.

Out of the respondents, 900 came from Western Europe, with just under a quarter (24%) saying they considered their organisations to be “sophisticated cloud users”, on the basis they have been using cloud-based infrastructure in production for more than four years.

This suggests Europe is behind the rest of the world from cloud maturity perceptive, given – from a global perspective – the percentage of respondents who consider their organisations to be sophisticated cloud users stands at 26%.

A further 44% of Western Europe respondents said they identified as “early adopters”, given they have been using cloud-based infrastructure in production for one-to-three years, while the remaining 32% said they are still exploring what role the technology will play within their wider infrastructure strategies.

The percentage of the 1,400 North American respondents who identified as being in the early adopter stage of their cloud migration journeys is the same as in Western Europe, but this geographic group also has a higher percentage of sophisticated cloud users (30%) overall.

In terms of which cloud providers they are using, the research suggests respondents are favouring a multi-cloud approach, with many of the organisations questioned stating they source public cloud services from more than one provider.

For example, out of the 63% of respondents who said they host data in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, less than a third (29%) said they did so to the exclusion of Microsoft Azure or the Google Cloud Platform. Meanwhile, 8% of respondents said they mix and match services from all three providers.

Cloud as the foundation for digital change

The report also makes the point that adopting a cloud-based infrastructure setup is often an important first step for organisations looking to adopt other technologies that could make a positive change to how their organisations function too.

“Innovation needs a strong foundation,” said Ben Lorica, chief data scientist at O’Reilly Media and co-author of the Evaluating data infrastructure report. “Years of delayed investment and a reliance on legacy infrastructures may be holding European organisations back in the global race to the cloud.”

It stands to reason, therefore, that firms that are slow to adopt cloud may also fall behind in their use of other technology tools and concepts, such as data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).

As the report’s data shows, there is a lot of appetite among respondents to invest in technologies that will improve how their organisations use the data they have at their disposal, which is a positive sign, added Lorica.

For example, the report reveals more than half (59%) of European enterprises are creating or evaluating technologies that will aid in data integration and extraction processes, while a further 56% said they are actively working on data science platforms.

“While they have some way to go before they achieve parity with their counterparts [with cloud], it’s positive to see so many [organisations] investing in data,” he said.

“A strong core of organised, clean and actionable data is crucial for any AI or analytics project. Provided companies become more competitive in attracting the best talent, 2019 may be the year that the continent turns a corner.”

But, as Lorica alluded to, aside from lacking a mature cloud strategy, access to people with the necessary data science skills is another barrier that may frustrate an organisation’s efforts to realise their AI and data analytics ambitions.

“European progress in data infrastructure and analytics is being held back by skill shortages in several key areas. Talent is in especially high demand for data science (47%) and data engineering (37%) roles,” said O’Reilly, in its accompanying press statement.

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