We recently held our annual partner accelerator events in Dublin and Birmingham, and took the opportunity to ask our partners what they really thought of the current virtual and cloud computing landscape – as promised; here are the results!

The most interesting finding was this: a complete transition to cloud computing is still several years away, according to our partners. That is not to say, however, that cloud computing isn’t gathering traction – it is – adoption is slow and steady however and does not necessarily match media hype.

For the time being, virtualisation projects largely remain the key focus in both the UK and Ireland, with desktop virtualisation and server virtualisation currently seen as the best sales opportunities in the UK by 59 per cent and 45 per cent of our partners respectively.  In Ireland, 52 per cent see desktop virtualisation as the current best sales opportunity, closely followed by cloud services at 48 per cent – suggesting a more rapid evolution on the Emerald Isle.

However, demand for cloud services and virtualisation as part of a broader cloud computing initiative is expected to surge in both countries in the coming years. Respondents forecast that the implementation of cloud services are likely to more than double in the next three years (65 per cent of UK respondents, 69 per cent of Irish respondents) while demand for virtualisation as part of a broader cloud computing initiative will also increase (52 per cent in the UK, 38 per cent in Ireland).

At the same time, 96 per cent of our Irish partners believes that Ireland has the potential to become a cloud computing hub, even in the relative short term, with 76 per cent of those surveyed saying Ireland could become the cloud capital within as little as two years.

The rapid evolution of cloud services has meant staff skills have become a consideration for organisations in the UK. Over half of UK respondents (55 percent) highlighted that there is currently a skills gap around the implementation of cloud technologies which may be behind the cautious technology adoption being witnessed by the UK’s channel community.

One sales opportunity businesses do seem to be embracing, and are expected to continue to do so, is mobile working or bring-your-own programmes within a wider desktop virtualisation initiative. More than four in ten UK partners see it as a strong sales opportunity now (43 percent) and this is expected to increase to more than one in two (56 percent) by 2014. In Ireland, of those surveyed, 72 per cent reported “considerable” or “some” growth in demand for BYO solutions to support the use of consumer devices (such as tablets or smartphones) in the workplace. The Irish channel also believes that there will be sustained growth in BYO over the next year with 69 per cent predicting “rapid” or “moderate” traction.

The sentiment is positive – businesses are under an ever increasing demand from end users to use technologies which enable their mobile and fast paced lives, and the channel is facilitating this trend with BYO solutions.

Equally, the drive towards the cloud is highlighted in the channels’ gradual adoption of cloud service offerings and expertise. The trends which have been anticipated over the last couple of years are now beginning to play out in real-time in both the UK & Ireland and this can only have positive implications. The message from customers is clear; help us save money and become more agile.

To all our UK and Ireland partners: thanks for taking the time to participate in this survey and happy selling in 2012. See you all at next year’s CPA!