Cloud usage: Microsoft Azure the most popular IaaS provider

Popular IaaS providers

Where do companies turn when it comes to adopting cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS)? According to a new survey by Spiceworks Inc., Microsoft Azure is their top choice.

The study, “Diving into IT Cloud Services,” found 16 percent of the 340 IT professionals surveyed use Microsoft Azure for IaaS. And that is expected to grow in the next 12 months, as an additional 21 percent said they are considering using it.

The next most popular IaaS provider is Amazon Web Services (AWS), with 13 percent saying they use it and another 11 percent saying they’re thinking about using it. Behind AWS are Rackspace Inc.’s Hosting (6 percent), Google Compute Engine (1 percent) and VMware Inc.’s vCloud Air (1 percent).

The popularity of Microsoft Azure is not surprising, said Peter Tsai, an IT analyst at Spiceworks. A lot of IT professionals manage PCs and servers running Windows, they are familiar with the operating systems and tools, and they have a high level of trust with the company.

“We’re finding a lot of folks are adopting Azure because it makes sense, and it’s already part of their skill set,” he said. “If they want to migrate their Microsoft Windows server into the cloud, it’s much more seamless, there are more tools available, they can already use the Hyper V platform and they don’t have to do too much work. Whereas some of the other providers might have a different framework that they’re not as familiar with.”

Regarding AWS, that was one of the first players in the space and one of the largest players out there, so the name is familiar and will attract customers, Tsai said.

Overall, adoption of IaaS is only 20 percent in North America, but an additional 16 percent said they are considering it. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), adoption is almost double that (29 percent), but it’s still low compared with other cloud services. Lack of control over infrastructure is one reason respondents gave for their reluctance.

IT pros are still waiting for a cloud service provider to take off and lead the charge in categories like IaaS, according to Spiceworks. But when looking at more conventional services, such as cloud storage and productivity suites, several providers stand out in each category.

The most-used cloud services

The cloud service most companies use is web hosting (76 percent). That’s followed by email hosting (56 percent), cloud storage (53 percent) and file sharing (53 percent). Only 35 percent of organizations use online backup and recovery, but that is expected to grow in the next 12 months, with an additional 23 percent considering it. Backup and recovery is expected to see the most growth among all cloud-based services during that timeframe.

Why do companies adopt those cloud services more than IaaS? Tsai said it’s because those services are easier.

“I think there’s a technical skills gap and a trust gap” when it comes to IaaS, he said. “IT administrators tend to pick up the others because they’re easy and cost effective.”

Cloud storage and file sharing usage

Looking at cloud storage and file-sharing services, DropBox has a slight lead over Microsoft OneDrive—33 percent to 31 percent. But look for OneDrive to take the lead over the next 12 months, as 18 percent say they are considering using OneDrive while only 7 percent said they are considering DropBox.

Google Drive is third in popularity for cloud storage and file sharing (27 percent), and Citrix ShareFile is fourth (7 percent).

Cloud-based productivity suites

Microsoft is also at the top for cloud-based productivity suites. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they use Office 365, and 23 percent said they are considering using it in the next 12 months.

The second most popular suite is Google Apps for Work. Sixteen percent use it, and 8 percent said they are considering using it. Apple iWork for iCloud is third with 4 percent of respondents using it and 2 percent considering using it.

Overall cloud usage

Spiceworks found 93 percent of organizations use at least one cloud-based service. Perhaps more significant, Tsai said, is one in three expect more than half of their organizations’ IT services to become cloud-based in the next two to three years.

The top reasons respondents gave for adopting cloud-based IT services: protection against local disasters (68 percent), no special hardware and software to maintain (68 percent), high availability (62 percent), scalability (54 percent) and ease of management (51 percent).

When evaluating cloud-based services, cost is the number one factor: 71 percent said it was important. The next important factor is reliability and service level guarantees (58 percent), followed by data security controls (41 percent).

Not everyone is on the cloud bandwagon, however. Speed and latency issues (60 percent), bandwidth requirements (58 percent), lack of control over infrastructure (52 percent) and security risks (52 percent) are the biggest reason why organizations are reluctant to adopt cloud services.

“When we ask people why they aren’t adopting cloud services, they might be in the middle of rural Kansas or something, and it doesn’t make sense for them because they’d be paying a lot of money for a slow connection, so they really can’t transfer the amount of data they need to reliably connect to cloud services,” Tsai said. “And some have to rely on wireless and have tons of latency.”