Rackspace Survey: Many Businesses Still Chained To Servers
March 29, 2012 by Dave Haynes
Cloud is a pretty seriously abused term these days – with companies using cloud almost interchangeably with Internet.
Raffi Vartian from signagelive, which describes itself as cloud-based digital signage software, sent around a press release this morning by cloud computing giant Rackspace that references his company. CEO Jason Cremins is quoted, which is a bit of a coup, but more to the point the release goes into some interest survey results about where cloud hosting is at and why companies use it.
A new survey released today by Rackspace® Hosting, the service leader in cloud computing, reveals that IT teams from mid-sized UK and US businesses polled still spend over half (56 per cent) of their time on server management and troubleshooting in a typical month, and only 28 per cent on strategic, ‘value-added’ activities. Despite the widespread availability of cloud and managed hosting, many organisations are clinging to physical servers, leaving in-house IT teams struggling with troubleshooting and capacity planning amid demands from their bosses to do more for less.
The Cloud Reality Check survey provides insight into how IT decision-makers at 500 mid-sized UK and US businesses approach server management and its related challenges. The new survey results are compared to the results of a near-identical study Rackspace commissioned in 2009, No More Servers, which contained responses from the same number of businesses similarly situated.
The report shows that most UK and US businesses seem to have either made poor progress or taken a step backwards regarding server management. The majority (59 per cent) of UK respondents admit they have either bought too many servers, which has wasted money, or bought too few, which has meant a lack of capacity. In 2009, 55 per cent of respondents said they got this wrong. In the US, the situation is worse: over two-thirds (67 per cent) said they’ve purchased the wrong number of servers, compared with 47 per cent in 2009.
The respondents indicated that UK IT teams spend half (50 per cent) of their time on server maintenance and troubleshooting today, slightly down from 57 per cent result in the 2009 survey. Yet, using these results, a UK IT team member on average would still spend an estimated 912 hours a year* just servicing servers, rather than helping to drive innovation. US businesses reported that their teams spend even more of their time – 62 per cent in a typical month – on server maintenance, and only a quarter of their time (25 per cent) on ‘value-added’ work.
Tellingly, the ‘hassle of managing servers’ seems to be a problem for far more UK and US businesses now (79 per cent) than was indicated in the 2009 survey (58 per cent). Similarly, top gripes regarding managing servers physically on-site – hardware maintenance (53 per cent), having to be available 24×7 (50 per cent), and the cost of buying and maintaining servers (40 per cent) – are voiced by more respondents in both the US and UK now than as reported in the 2009 survey.
Fabio Torlini, VP of Cloud at Rackspace, says: “Problems associated with having to manage and maintain servers are often readily solved by cloud and managed hosting services. In 2009, one-third (33 per cent) of businesses surveyed expected to outsource their in-house servers in the next two to five years. However, over two years later, the new study suggests that many mid-sized businesses are still chained to their servers, and may be spending unnecessary time and money on them.”
A large percentage of UK and US IT decision-makers interviewed said they are under mounting pressure to support business growth and change (89 per cent, up from 65 per cent in 2009), improve flexibility (88 per cent, compared with 66 per cent) and help drive internal innovation (88 per cent, up from 61 per cent). In addition, businesses are also facing demands from the board to reduce IT spending, according to 87 per cent of respondents (up from 65 per cent in 2009).
Jason Cremins, CEO of UK-based digital signage provider, signagelive, which has recently moved its media delivery infrastructure to the Rackspace Cloud, found the move helped his company tackle similar challenges. “We’ve seen dramatic reductions in operational costs and major improvements in the speed and reliability of our infrastructure after moving to the Rackspace Cloud. The move has also helped our customers. The content delivery business is moving away from in-house physical servers because the near-infinite scalability and reliability of cloud hosting lowers the barrier of entry for our customers and enables them to focus on their core business.”
This year’s results show that 38 per cent of respondents now expect to outsource their in-house servers in two to five years (35 per cent in the UK; 40 per cent in the US). Yet, top barriers to moving to cloud hosting – questions regarding security (54 per cent), reliability (47 per cent), and ROI (42 per cent) – are holding back more organisations now than indicated in our 2009 survey. For example, security is seen as a barrier to server outsourcing by twice as many respondents in 2012 (54 per cent), compared with 2009 (27 per cent).
Another factor potentially holding back UK organisations in particular is their approach to new technology. Interestingly, although 28 per cent of UK respondents would describe their company’s approach to new technologies, such as on-demand computing, as cautious and reactive, only 8 per cent of their US counterparts would. Conversely, 39 per cent of US respondents would describe their company as a cutting edge, corporate innovator, while only 10 per cent of UK respondents would.
According to Torlini, the way the cloud and managed hosting market is maturing, as suggested by the study, represents a challenge to end-users and cloud and managed hosting service providers alike. “In 2009, almost two out of five (18 per cent) of respondents didn’t know what cloud computing was. In 2012, everybody does, and is looking at it – the benefits and the issues. The challenge for mid-sized businesses is to stop unnecessarily holding onto their in-house physical servers, and give themselves a chance to focus on more important and valuable work. The challenge for cloud service providers is to provide the right advice and services to help more of them overcome the barriers to doing just this.”
Many or possibly even most companies providing software as a service platforms use server hosting facilities and co-locate their own servers there, taking advantage of big pipes, redundant power and layers of secured access. And some then call that a cloud service. As pointed out elsewhere, SaaS and cloud computing are different things, but can be packaged up.
Better defined, real cloud computing is where a provider’s application is hosted on the facility’s server farm and the computing power virtualized (so it can be migrated around as needed), shared with other “tenants” on the farm, and usage made elastic, so that when there is a spike needed in capabilities the tenant doesn’t have to add more servers, but instead just uses more of what’s generally available, and rolls back to normal levels easily.
Your software design has to be able to handle that, and your client(s) have to be OK about being on “shared” hardware.
It’s been a while since I have run Ops for a company, and my guess is there are budget and other arguments against this sort of set-up. But in principle, it seems to make sense that if you are a software company, and you can outsource stuff like watering and feeding your own servers, you’d do that.
There is a good argument/debate going on about all this on DailyDOOH.