By Max Clarke

Cloud services are seen to be increasingly important to the majority of the UK’s IT industry, according to the latest research conducted by the Cloud Industry Forum.

83% of respondents rated cloud services as either equal to or better than on-premise solutions; though half believed that much of the attention offered the cloud is marketing hype, the research, conducted in January and February this year, reveals.

63% are already active in the sale and/or support of cloud and an estimated 18% of 2010 revenues for the IT channel were purported to have been generated from cloud-based services, and this figure is expected to increase to an average projected figure of 32.87 per cent by 2014. A separate study on cloud computing revealed the combined benefit to leading EU economies could be as much as €763 billion, with businesses set to benefit €233 billion.

Andy Burton, chairman of the Cloud Industry Forum, stated: “There has been a noticeable increase in speculation over the future of the IT channel as a direct result of end user adoption of cloud computing in recent months. However, the findings of this research indicate that the IT channel is in fact evolving and embracing the cloud opportunity as a key part of its value proposition, intending to bring real value to its customer base in turn.”

Three quarters (76 per cent) of IT channel partners selling cloud services also provide proactive advice and guidance on how to implement them within their wider IT capabilities and 48 per cent of them prefer to sell cloud services over on-premise and a further 40 per cent had no preference between the two models.

However, amidst all the positive feedback from the research, inconsistencies arose between the priorities of what end users were seeking in terms of cloud services and the maturity of what is being offered through the channel. In addition, there was a tendency in IT channel organisations who are not participating in cloud services today to over-emphasize perceived issues that prevent adoption (such as is the cloud secure, or, does the cloud minimise the customers ability to maintain control) compared to the actual feedback received from end users who saw these as questions to be answered and not fundamental barriers.

Ian McEwan, VP EMEA, FrontRange commented: "The research highlights how a three-way relationship between customers, channel partners and vendors needs to evolve. I understand the IT channel's desire to get involved in cloud solutions, and there is a strong market opportunity for them, but it also requires a change in mindset to accommodate the different type of solution and the customer expectations."