Companies are driving their digitalisation with the cloud

July 3, 2024

  • 61 per cent want to digitise internal processes via the cloud – only 45 per cent a year ago
  • AI and cybersecurity are driving cloud growth
  • Cloud will dominate corporate IT in 5 years’ time

Cloud computing is driving the digitalisation of the German economy. 6 out of 10 companies (61 per cent) that use cloud computing or are at least discussing it want to digitalise their internal processes. A year ago, the proportion was only 45 per cent. Just as many (61 per cent) want to use their cloud activities to force a switch to platforms and software-as-a-service (2023: 57 per cent). Overall, 81 per cent of companies in Germany are using cloud computing, a further 14 per cent are planning to do so or are discussing it, while the cloud is not an issue for just 5 per cent. Companies want to use the cloud even more intensively in the future than they do today. Companies currently run around a third (38 per cent) of their IT applications in the cloud. In five years, the proportion is expected to have risen to 54 per cent. These are the findings of the “Cloud Report 2024”, which the digital association Bitkom presented in Berlin today.

The data is based on a representative survey of 603 companies with 20 or more employees from all sectors of the economy. “The cloud is also a basic technology of the digital economy in Germany. Cloud applications enable even small companies to fully digitalise their processes and business models,” says Bitkom President Dr Ralf Wintergerst. “The cloud will dominate corporate IT in the future.”

Other goals for cloud use currently include reducing costs (62 per cent), increasing IT security (57 per cent), reducing CO2 emissions (56 per cent), setting up platforms for cooperation with third parties (50 per cent) and developing innovative products and services (49 per cent).

44 per cent see the cloud as a way out of the hardware shortage for operating their own servers, while 38 per cent see it as a way to access innovative technologies such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.

When it comes to sustainability, companies see both advantages and disadvantages to the cloud. Six out of ten companies state that cloud computing can save energy and resources (61 per cent) and that sustainability reports can be created more easily (59 per cent). At the same time, three quarters (75 per cent) believe that the easy scalability of cloud computing means that software is becoming increasingly resource-hungry.

And 54 per cent consider the energy and resource consumption of the cloud to be too opaque. “Companies can become more sustainable with cloud computing. However, this is not a sure-fire success, but requires targeted measures. Even in the cloud, we need to keep an eye on resource consumption,” says Wintergerst.

Demand for AI applications from the cloud is set to double in 5 years

Companies in Germany currently use a variety of different applications from the cloud. Email (67 per cent), applications for HR management, accounting and financial planning (67 per cent), storage space for files (66 per cent) and office software (64 per cent) are in the lead with around two thirds each. 58 per cent use the computing power of the cloud in parallel for a wide range of applications, 56 per cent have databases in the cloud. This is followed by web conferencing (49 per cent), collaboration tools (48 per cent), security software (48 per cent), ERP (36 per cent), IoT services (34 per cent), CRM (32 per cent) and software development (30 per cent). 17 per cent of companies already use the cloud for AI applications.

If you ask companies what could be of interest to them in the next five years, there is a whole range of applications with great growth potential. For example, 80 per cent want to use email from the cloud (up 13 percentage points), 74 per cent storage space (up 8 percentage points) and 73 per cent office software (up 9 percentage points). Web conferencing (60 per cent, up 11 percentage points) and software development (41 per cent, up 11 percentage points) are also expected to see strong growth. In addition to CRM applications (48 per cent, up 16 percentage points), security solutions (64 per cent, up 16 percentage points) are leading the growth. Artificial intelligence is right at the top. The number of companies that want to obtain AI from the cloud is expected to double from the current 17 per cent to 34 per cent. “IT security and artificial intelligence will give a strong boost to cloud computing, while the cloud promotes the use of AI and strengthens security,” says Wintergerst.

AI from the cloud: greatest interest in forecasts and data analyses

When it comes to AI services from the cloud, the companies that already use them or want to do so are primarily interested in predictions and forecasts (87 per cent) and data analyses (81 per cent). Two thirds (67 per cent) want to use AI-based security solutions and fraud detection, followed by the automation of business processes (52 per cent), the analysis and generation of texts (50 per cent), voice or audio (46 per cent) and images or videos (43 per cent). AI-supported software development is of interest to 42 per cent, chatbots to 37 per cent and personnel selection and recruiting to 31 per cent. A quarter (24 per cent) are interested in facial recognition and 12 per cent in emotion recognition. “The cloud also offers smaller companies very easy access to various types of artificial intelligence,” says Wintergerst.

Despite the great interest, AI applications from the cloud are currently still too expensive for many companies (75 per cent), they are seen as a security risk (64 per cent) or are considered incompatible with data protection (62 per cent). 59 per cent are currently unable to use them due to a lack of expertise within the company. At the same time, however, 56 per cent say that the cloud provides access to the latest AI technologies, 36 per cent that AI applications in the cloud are easy to use and 28 per cent attest to a transparent pricing model.

4 out of 10 cloud users rely on “cloud only” or “cloud first”

Every seventh company (14 per cent) that uses the cloud pursues a “cloud only” strategy. This means that cloud computing is used for all applications and systems and existing solutions are transferred to the cloud. A further 26 per cent rely on “cloud first”. Cloud solutions are prioritised for new projects and existing applications are moved to the cloud as required. 39 per cent have a “cloud too” strategy, i.e. they supplement existing IT solutions with cloud applications. 18 per cent do not follow a defined cloud strategy. “4 out of 10 companies that already use cloud computing today clearly prioritise the cloud in their IT strategy. Software providers must develop suitable offerings for this,” says Wintergerst.

In addition, 25 per cent of cloud users rely on a hybrid cloud, i.e. a mixture of public and private cloud services. A further 18 per cent are planning to use it and 10 per cent are discussing it. And as many as 38 per cent use a multi-cloud, i.e. they use cloud services from different providers. A further 11 per cent are planning to switch to a multi-cloud, and 11 per cent are also discussing it. From the users’ perspective, the main advantages of the multi-cloud are the avoidance of outages (100 per cent), better distribution of resources at full capacity (96 per cent) and the reduction of lock-in effects (76 per cent) and increased freedom of action (62 per cent). 57 per cent want to use special services from specific providers, while 51 per cent cite economic reasons such as cost reduction.

More than half want to invest in the cloud

This year, 54 per cent of all companies in Germany want to invest in the cloud. A third of them (33 per cent) are planning to spend more than in the previous year, while only 21 per cent want to reduce their spending. 42 per cent are keeping investments stable. As many as 77 per cent are planning to invest in the cloud in the future. Wintergerst: “The cloud is an essential component of corporate IT in many places. Investments in the cloud are investments in the digital future viability of your own company.”

When selecting their cloud provider, companies particularly value trust in IT security, data protection and compliance (99 per cent), the performance and stability of the offering (97 per cent) and the ability to encrypt data (93 per cent). Other important criteria are sustainability (61 per cent), interoperability (60 per cent), data centres in Germany or the EU (59 per cent) and a trustworthy country of origin of the provider (58 per cent). For half (50 per cent), innovative strength such as access to the latest solution is decisive, 46 per cent pay attention to openness, for example through open source, 41 per cent to low costs, 30 per cent to compliance with Gaia-X and 28 per cent to global availability of the offering.

Cloud location Germany leads the way

Germany ranks at the top of the list for companies that pay attention to the location of cloud data centres: 99% would prefer domestic data centres, and 1% would at least consider them. Locations in the rest of the EU would be preferred by 60 per cent, with 37 per cent considering them. This is followed by the USA (11 per cent would prefer it, 34 per cent would consider it), the rest of Europe (8 per cent or 24 per cent), Japan (8 per cent or 16 per cent) and India (5 per cent or 15 per cent). Only 3 percent would prefer the UK, but 49 percent would at least consider data centres there. Bringing up the rear are China, which only 1 per cent would prefer and 3 per cent would accept, and Russia, which practically no company (0 per cent) would even consider.

Sovereign cloud offerings are becoming increasingly relevant on the market for highly regulated applications, such as in the financial or healthcare sectors or for public administration. They promise data protection and data sovereignty at the highest level. However, only 4 per cent of those responsible in companies can currently explain what this is all about, while 31 per cent know at least roughly what it is. 21 per cent have already heard of it, but cannot explain what it means, and 41 per cent are completely unaware of sovereign cloud offerings. “Providers of sovereign cloud offerings still have a lot of work to do to raise awareness if they want to establish themselves on the market,” says Wintergerst. “The potential for sovereign clouds is definitely huge.”

Cloud obstacles: Lack of skilled labour, lack of time, high costs

The biggest obstacles to implementing cloud projects and moving to the cloud are a lack of qualified personnel (76 per cent), concerns about unauthorised access to sensitive data (64 per cent), a lack of time (63 per cent) and excessive investment requirements (62 per cent). Other internal company hurdles include an overly complex migration to the cloud (55 per cent), a lack of qualified external advice (53 per cent), fear of data loss (52 per cent) and resistance within the company (43 per cent). However, external requirements also hinder the use of the cloud. For example, 55 per cent complain that IT security requirements are too high, 51 per cent complain that data protection requirements are too high and 50 per cent feel that regulatory requirements are generally hindering cloud projects.

Methodological note: The data is based on a survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. This involved a telephone survey of 603 companies with 20 or more employees in Germany. The survey took place in the period from week 12 to week 19 2024. The survey is representative of the economy as a whole.

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