A popular trope in science fiction involves an individual who’s been time-shifted into a future culture (frozen in ice, cryogenic sleep, time machine, what have you), and the reader or viewer then learns about the new culture by what the protagonist experiences or reads. I’ve been thinking that if our time traveler arrived were a sysadmin who arrived in 2012 from a 5 or 10 years in the past, he or she would initially read the tech blogs and online press and think that cloud was the reigning technology and that servers in data centers and with actually applications running on them disappeared like so many 8-track tape players.
Of course, if the story were allowed to continue, at some point our time-traveler would get a job, maybe as a sysadmin, and then shock would set in when the cloud-enabled world was hardly to be found. The server room would still be full of racks of physical servers. Sure, lots of them would be running a hypervisor with virtual machines, but it’s still a far cry from the cloud-filled IT world that the hype seems to imply.
Am I saying the cloud is all hype? Definitely not. But like most technologies, there’s what some have termed macro-myopia, which is the tendency to overestimate the short-term impact of a technology and dramatically underestimate its long-term impact. It’s clear that cloud will impact IT in a huge and probably deeply transformational way. Eventually. But today, most computing resources are still on solid ground.
How do we know? First off, SolarWinds sells enterprise software at a really low price, which results in literally thousands of transactions every quarter. On top of that, our product management team is reaching out to customers and non-customers alike on a daily basis, asking for what they need. In all of these conversations, we’re focused on current pain points. We discuss the problems that need immediate attention. While we now have a large portfolio that can solve a lot of pains, we still get asked for things we don’t do (yet). So how often do we get asked for help with managing cloud infrastructure? I won’t say never, but if I did, it wouldn’t be far off.
We’ve also done more formal data collection. When we surveyed 90 customers, we found that 56% of customers said they weren’t running anything in public or private clouds. About 29% said they aren’t even thinking about cloud. Only about 5% were running critical applications in a public cloud. That goes up to 9% if you throw in non-critical apps. Private clouds are more in use, with over 40% of users running something in a private cloud, but when we’ve drilled in with end users, private cloud is often just virtualized environment that’s been “rounded up” to a cloud: There’s no self-service, no abstraction of the server from the end user.
We did a separate survey about cloud plans, and with 88 respondents, it told a similar story. Roughly 70% of respondents had no plans to do anything with cloud in the next year. Only 16% were planning a cloud initiative in the next 6 months.
BTW, if you’re tempted to dismiss these results because SolarWinds is “an SMB player”, let me set the record straight: Just because we’ve figured out how to sell to customers with only a few hundred employees does not mean that we only sell to that segment. Our customers—including those in this survey—range in size from hundreds to tens of thousands of customers. We cover a huge swath of the market. We just do it without talking to CxOs, who are, perhaps, more susceptible to vendors who “cloudwash” their solutions, given that the CxO can’t easily drill down further than what’s presented in a slide show.
Why am I throwing a cold, wet blanket on the cloud party? Again, we believe cloud is coming, but it’s not here yet, and it probably won’t be here for a while yet, maybe closer to 2020, if IDC is to be believed (see Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud Adoption – Competing for 2020; IDC). In the meantime, real IT professionals have real problems with their non-cloud environments right now. And when I look around at the big IT management vendors like VMware, Microsoft, CA, and BMC, they are pushing cloud this and cloud that 7/24/365. The cloud focus is just as true of startups (although that make sense because startups are all about the future). Who’s left to look after the problems of today? That would be us. SolarWinds continues to focus on delivering powerful, low-cost software that are truly easy to use.
We aren’t ignoring cloud. When it becomes a need for mainstream IT people, we’ll have products that address their pain point. Count on it. Until then, if any of our competition wants to pull their heads out of the clouds, we wouldn’t mind a little company in the here and now...