More than half of chief information officers surveyed by International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) are ready to turn to cloud computing over the next five years, seeking to grow their businesses and gain a competitive edge.

The Armonk, N.Y., tech giant's survey, which polled over 3,000 CIOs from 71 countries and 18 industries, showed 60% of CIOs plan to use cloud computing, up from 33% two years ago. Demand for cloud computing has jumped of late, with tech giants across the country rushing to introduce new offerings. The technology generally allows users to run programs and store information remotely, eliminating the cost of operating the equipment themselves.

"It really was a massive jump for any area in two years," said Jeanette Horan, who became IBM's CIO last week after previously serving as vice president of enterprise business transformation at the company.

She added in an interview that mature markets, like the U.S. and Japan, are looking to cloud computing to drive savings and as a new way to deliver IT services. In emerging markets, companies are concentrating on cloud computing for business agility, the ability to deploy new applications more rapidly, she said.

Seven out of 10 CIOs in the U.S., Japan and South Korea, and 68 percent in China, now identify cloud as a top priority, up sharply from 2009 when only about a third of CIOs focused on cloud. The industries most focused on cloud include media and entertainment, automotive and telecommunications.

Meanwhile, the study also showed chief executives and CIOs increasingly have the same priorities, especially when it comes to analyzing the piles of data the companies amass. IBM said the shift is because CEOs better understand the importance of technology, especially for tasks like analytics, which extracts insights from the massive piles of data companies have collected.

"CIOs used to be thought of as the people in the basement running servers, but that's no longer the case," Horan said. "The use of technology is pervasive across an organization, and most organizations cannot run without that intimacy with the technology and business processes."

For the next three to five years, CIOs and CEOs are focused on strengthening relationships with customers, developing the skills of employees, and gaining insight and intelligence from data. Of the surveyed CIOs, 83% of respondents views business intelligence and analytics as top priorities and 74% viewing mobile computing and mobility offerings as game-changers.

"Companies are really trying to understand the dynamics of their well as how to use that information in much more real time to prioritize their own business agenda," Horan said. "This really is about business agility."

-By Shara Tibken, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2189;

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