Cloud use will increase rapidly

May 17, 2023

  • In 5 years, majority of companies want to source the majority of IT applications from the cloud
  • Already today, 9 out of 10 companies use cloud applications
  • One in three gains access to innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence via the cloud

Cloud computing has established itself in Germany and is now facing rapid growth. In five years, 56 percent of all companies want to run more than half of their IT applications from the cloud. Currently, just 15 percent of companies achieve this share. One in two companies (54 percent) plan to invest in cloud solutions this year, and two-thirds (69 percent) plan to do so in 2024 or later. Currently, 89 percent use cloud computing, another 8 percent are planning or discussing it. For only 3 percent is the cloud not an issue. These are the results of a representative survey of 554 companies with 20 or more employees from all economic sectors commissioned by the digital association Bitkom. “Already today, practically all companies use cloud applications. However, the intensity of use will increase sharply in the next few years. Cloud is the new normal of the digital world,” says Bitkom CEO Dr Bernhard Rohleder. “At the same time, however, it is also true that companies will not move all IT applications to the cloud, at least in the medium term.”

Every ninth company (11 percent) that uses the cloud has 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 36 percent rely on “cloud first”, which means that cloud solutions are preferred for new projects and existing applications are moved to the cloud if required. For 35 percent, “cloud too” applies, i.e. at least partially supplementing existing IT solutions with cloud applications. “Almost half of all companies prefer cloud solutions for new IT projects. This is a clear signal to the software providers, some of which still have to adapt their offerings,” says Rohleder. Already today, companies use a wide variety of cloud offerings. Storage space in the cloud is used most frequently (92 percent), followed by web conferencing (76 percent), general computing power for the most diverse applications as well as office software (73 percent each) and software for personnel, accounting and financial planning (72 percent). Cloud-based databases are used by 60 percent, ERP systems by 30 percent. But special applications such as IoT (37 percent) or AI services (32 percent) also come from the cloud.

Cloud should save costs and make it more sustainable

The most important goal for companies in their cloud activities is to reduce costs (64 percent) and CO2 emissions (63 percent). A majority of 57 percent each also want to convert IT applications to platforms and software-as-a-service and increase IT security. Other important goals are the development of platforms for cooperation with third parties (49 percent), the digitalisation of internal processes (46 percent) and the development of innovative products or services (43 percent). 39 percent also see a way out of the existing hardware shortage, which has hindered the expansion of their own data centres, 38 percent promise themselves access to innovative technologies such as IoT or AI through the cloud. Rohleder: “The cloud offers small and medium-sized companies in particular access to innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence – without high investment costs or special technical know-how in their own companies.”

Even though many companies hope to make a contribution to climate protection through cloud solutions, they see both light and shadow in this area. 57 percent of all companies are of the opinion that cloud computing can save energy and resources. 59 percent think that cloud computing simplifies the preparation of sustainability reports. On the other hand, 48 percent also complain that the energy and resource consumption of cloud computing is too intransparent and three quarters (76 percent) say that cloud computing, due to its easy scalability, leads to software being programmed in an increasingly resource-hungry way. “Cloud computing can help companies become more sustainable. In doing so, initiatives such as Green Coding can ensure that the provision of computing power and storage space at the click of a mouse does not lead to a loss of focus on resource consumption and thus costs,” says Rohleder.

Cloud obstacle number one is the lack of skilled workers

Companies face many hurdles when implementing cloud projects. These hurdles exist within the company itself, are set externally or concern very fundamental security issues. The biggest brake on the cloud market is the lack of qualified personnel (65 percent). Other significant internal obstacles are a lack of time (53 percent), too complex migration tasks (52 percent) and too high an investment requirement (50 percent). Resistance within their own company and a lack of external advice inhibit 42 percent each in their cloud projects. Only 35 percent state that the economic benefit is unclear to them. Other obstacles to cloud projects are too high requirements for IT security (59 percent) and data protection (56 percent) as well as regulatory conditions (51 percent), for example in certain sectors such as the financial industry or healthcare. Around two thirds (64 percent) fear unauthorised access to sensitive data in the cloud, 45 percent are afraid of data loss. “Moving to the cloud can significantly increase IT security in companies, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises that cannot afford a large IT department,” says Rohleder.

Cyber attacks on the cloud: only 1 percent report damage

In fact, two-thirds (64 percent) of companies using cloud computing say they have not had a cyberattack on the cloud environment at all in the past twelve months. A quarter (26 percent) report attacks, but their own security measures were effective. Only 1 percent were victims of a cyber attack on the cloud environment that led to severe disruptions in operations.

With regard to security and data protection, 8 out of 10 companies (81 percent) that use cloud computing, are planning to do so or are discussing it, care about the country in which the cloud provider’s data centre is located. The clear location favourite is Germany: 93 percent prefer a domestic data centre, for 7 percent it is an option. The other EU countries follow at a considerable distance, preferred by 50 percent and considered by 41 percent. They are followed by Japan (18 percent prefer, 19 percent consider) and the USA (14 percent / 28 percent) as well as India (10 percent / 9 percent). Great Britain is preferred by only 1 per cent, but is at least a possibility for 44 per cent. In contrast, China is out of the question for 96 percent, and a location in Russia is rejected by 100 percent. “Cloud computing will gain in importance and this requires high-performance, well-connected and secure data centres. If we prevent the operation of data centres in Germany by imposing unrealistic requirements, such as an obligation to feed waste heat into non-existent district heating networks, we will weaken our digital sovereignty,” says Rohleder.

Every second company is interested in Gaia-X

In line with these location preferences, the European cloud and data initiative Gaia-X is of interest to almost half of the companies (46 percent). 17 percent already have concrete plans to use Gaia-X compliant services, another 29 percent can imagine doing so but have nothing planned yet. 42 percent are currently not interested in Gaia-X, 11 percent have not yet formed an opinion or do not want to give an indication. Advantages of Gaia-X-compliant services are seen above all in the area of compliance and legal certainty in data protection (71 percent) as well as in particularly high standards for IT security (66 percent). The possibility of sovereign and trustworthy data exchange is also important (62 percent). “Gaia-X and closely related projects can make an important strategic contribution to advancing Germany and Europe in the areas of cloud, edge and data economy. The interest of companies is definitely there,” said Rohleder. “The crucial thing is that Gaia-X-compliant offerings become available on the market as quickly as possible.”

Note on methodology: The data is based on a survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. In the process, 554 companies with 20 or more employees in Germany were interviewed by telephone. The survey is representative of the economy as a whole.

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