Business

Boston’s future jobs may be in cloud

Some 20,000 spots probable, study says

There are jobs in the cloud.

The rise of cloud computing services - running software and storing files online, rather than on a computer hard drive - is expected to create 20,000 jobs in the Boston area by 2015, according to a report produced for Microsoft Corp. by Framingham research firm IDC Corp.

Most of the jobs will come as companies shift from maintaining their own, expensive computer servers toward cloud services, which allow access to enterprise software and data via the Internet, according to the report, which was scheduled to be released Monday.

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Shifting to the cloud could cut costs for companies and help create 1.1 million jobs in North America by the end of 2015 and a global rise in business revenues of $1.1 trillion.

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Last year, the United States added 1.8 million new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The forecast for cloud-related job growth assumes that when companies do not have to spend money on maintaining legacy systems, they will spend it on innovation elsewhere, and that will create new jobs, according to IDC analyst John Gantz.

“The large enterprises are moving their computing into the cloud at a lower cost and they can repurpose that money into sales and marketing jobs,’’ said Craig Hodges, general manager of Microsoft’s Northeast sales division. The report is the company’s first analysis of the global impact of cloud computing.

In the Boston area, the primary drivers in the growth of cloud computing are education and financial services businesses, according to the IDC research. Hospitals and government services are slower to move to the cloud because of regulation and security issues, it said.

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IDC’s Gantz said cloud spending is growing almost five times faster than overall spending on technology. But with total information technology spending in 2011 of $1.7 trillion, the $28 billion spend on cloud services makes it a nascent market.

The report says that more than 50 percent of the job growth related to increasing adoption of cloud services will take place in small and medium-sized businesses. More companies are spending less on IT maintenance, but using the cloud does not amount to outsourcing tech support staff, Gantz said. Instead, those positions are being redefined when companies move to the cloud and away from servicing their own computer servers.

Ion Stoica, a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, agrees the cloud will generate jobs, but argues that rather than coming from companies that redirect money saved when they mothball servers, more jobs may be created because the cloud lowers the bar for the initial investment in new technologies.

For instance, he said, companies that want access to database management no longer have to buy software and servers, but can do much of that work via cloud services.

“This level of accessibility would allow a larger number of companies to deploy new technology faster and take advantage of them immediately. In the end, taking advantage of such new technologies is what will generate new jobs,’’ he wrote in an e-mail.

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The move toward the cloud is also giving rise to more start-ups that offer businesses and individuals access to these services.

“Even the largest companies are jumping into cloud services left and right, even the biggest data companies,’’ said Mike Miller, a cofounder of Cloudant, a Boston-based start-up that launched in 2010 to provide businesses with complex data analysis services through the cloud. The company expects to grow to about 40 people this year and has more than 200 customers.

Miller said acceptance of the cloud has happened faster than he expected. “There are a lot of companies like ours that are innovating in the cloud data space.’’

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.