Canonical's Ubuntu Server and Cloud Survey indicates bright future for cloud services

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Mark Baker, Canonical Ubuntu Server and Cloud Product Manager,  dropped by to present a review of the company's recently released Server and Cloud survey.  It's been quite some time since I last had the opportunity to speak with Canonical and so, I really enjoyed the conversation.

About the survey

Canonical points out that it asked more than 5,800 Ubuntu users from six continents to share their experience of using Ubuntu server and cloud, as well as general cloud usage patterns and preferences. While the results can't be considered representative of the market as a whole, the results were interesting nevertheless.

Overall, I was pleased to see that Canonical specified the sample size and some of the specifics about the respondents. This way, it is very clear that the company is presenting what they learned from users of their software and that the company was not trying to make unsupported sweeping statements about the worldwide market for server software, servers or cloud services

As one would suspect, the results tend to favor Canonical's products and approach.

Some survey results

Here is the summary of the survey results Canonical published and Canonical's commentary about those results:

1. More mission-critical workloads are being deployed in the cloud

The worldwide cloud market is projected to be worth $131 billion this year and the industry is continuing to grow exponentially. As it grows, a key change is taking place; companies today are not only hosting email or non-critical applications, but are also deploying a wide range of business applications and workloads. It’s a sign that the cloud is coming of age.

The 2013 Server and Cloud Survey found that 64 percent of respondents are already deploying, or plan to deploy workloads to the cloud. 55 percent consider cloud environments ready for mission-critical workloads - up from 22% in 2012. Specific types of mission-critical workloads enterprises are deploying to the cloud include; Web server workloads (51 percent), database (44 percent), backup (42 percent), file server (30 percent).

These findings show greater trust in the cloud, especially as 59 percent are using such environments for production now, rather than just test and development (60 percent) or extra server capacity (53 percent).

2. OpenStack and Ubuntu private cloud deployments preferred

There’s been a lot of focus on public clouds lately as many providers are still in early days and looking to make a name for themselves in a crowded market. However, our survey shows that enterprises actually prefer private clouds and that OpenStack is an increasingly viable option to meet their flexibility, scalability and accessibility needs.

We found that 41 percent of respondents are currently using private clouds, while just 27 percent are using public clouds and 15 percent using hybrid clouds. And, while it could be argued that hybrid is tied in with public cloud usage, the projections for the type of cloud infrastructure expected to be built over the next year show private infrastructure leading the charge at 52 percent.

With so many cloud options these days, it’s also encouraging to see OpenStack being selected as the private cloud infrastructure of choice with 42 percent using OpenStack, compared to 30 percent using vCloud. And, because most OpenStack clouds run on Ubuntu, it’s no surprise that 75 percent have near-term plans to deploy more Ubuntu servers and 70 percent consider Ubuntu as a viable platform for their cloud-based deployments.

It’s clear that the private cloud space will be one to watch, especially as both OpenStack and Ubuntu become increasingly prominent in enterprise settings. But we foresee that companies will likely move more toward a hybrid model where they can choose the best option for whatever their needs may be at a given time, and enable the flexibility to move seamlessly between private and public infrastructures.

3. Cloud orchestration tools show market opportunity

While traditionally there’s been some uncertainty around cloud orchestration tools, our Server and Cloud Survey shows a promising trend for the cloud service orchestration market generally. In fact, it seems many are realizing the importance of sophisticated configuration management tools and are increasingly using them instead of home-baked bash scripts. And, with the increasing complexity of cloud environments, people are becoming more sophisticated in their use of such tools, moving beyond configuration management tools to cloud orchestration tools like Juju, which offer a more service-centric view of cloud environments and allow for more flexibility in scaling out and re-configuring services.

Our 2013 Server and Cloud Survey shows that 24 percent of respondents are using Puppet as their service orchestration tool and 16 percent are using Juju, which is much newer to the market (check out our latest Juju upgrade!). But, what’s arguably more interesting is that nearly half of the respondents (49.3 percent) aren’t using any service orchestration tool whatsoever. This shows that a large percentage of the market is still up for grabs and there’s an education job to be done so companies can know what type of solution is best for their business. And, if Ubuntu’s Juju tool continues along its current growth trajectory, we’ll have a strong opportunity to capitalize on this market share.

Snapshot analysis

The Ubuntu Server and Cloud survey indicates that Canonical's customer base is strongly behind the company, its products and its approach to the market. It isn't clear, however, whether this sediment broadly held. I imagine recent disclosures about the U.S. NSA's and other governmental agencies around the world spying on Internet activities are likely to cause decision makers to review their cloud plans. This is likely to delay overall cloud adoption.

Since the survey sample is made up of Ubuntu users, it is quite understandable that the respondents support the company and its products. Since others were not included in the sample, it is not at all clear that the market as a whole has similar opinions.

If one steps backs and sees this as a survey of companies that could be considered the leading edge of cloud services deployment, the study can also be seen as pointing to a bright future for cloud computing. Security, however, remains a challenge to be overcome if this bright future is to materialize.   

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