CIOs come around to cloud storage

Box's Aaron Levie at GigaOM Net:Work 2011
It is not surprising that Aaron Levie says CIOs are ready to sign off on big corporate cloud-storage deals. He is, after all, the co-founder and CEO of Box — a company staking its claim as an enterprise-grade cloud-storage service.
More surprising is the fact that experts with no dog in this fight agree that even the biggest companies are ready to commit to cloud storage.
They are late to the party. Consumers have already embraced the notion of cloud storage — whether it is Dropbox, which claims more than  45 million users; Apple’s (s aapl) iCloud; or a dozen other offerings.
Now, because of mobile device proliferation in the enterprise, demand there for similar data cloud services is exploding, said Joe Coyle, the North American CTO for Capgemini, a global systems integrator.
This demand is due to the fact that enterprise applications are not yet prepared to support the exchange of various documents across all of these platforms, Coyle said.
Simon Robinson, a research director for 451 Research, also reported a “massive upswing” in CIOs looking for what he called an “enterprise-class Dropbox,” although he cautioned that enterprise adoption is still in its early phase. Dropbox is a cloud storage company that has focused, thus far, on consumer use.
“CIOs are terrified of the potential exposure of corporate data or data loss or falling afoul of privacy guidelines,” Robinson said. They want assurances that the storage cloud is secure and compliant.
Robinson agreed that the proliferation of smartphones and iPads in the enterprise sparked grassroots demand for a corporate solution for all the data that employees create. “People now realize they have a problem they didn’t know they had — and maybe they didn’t have two or three years ago — and that is being able to access their data from multiple devices,” he said.
Levie said in the past two quarters, Box (formerly known as has seen an “unbelievable transition” from what had been smaller departmental sales to a “CIO-led conversation” about cloud storage in the enterprise. “These guys are now sanctioning our technology for thousands of users, not just pockets of users.”
There is more going on than just the mobile-device-fueled demand, however. Coyle said the whole embrace of big data means that companies are storing more web logs, machine data and just more stuff in general.
“The sheer volume and availability needs are pushing cloud storage to the forefront,” he said. They have to look at the economics of cloud compared to the high-cost, high-maintenance data center storage model, he said.
In short, even the most risk-averse C-level information executives are coming to realize that if cloud storage isn’t in their current plan, it will be in the near future.