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As is often the case in IT, there is usually a fair amount of revisionist history applied to determining what was the original cause of certain trends. Case in point is a recent survey of 1,850 IT professionals conducted by ServiceNow. In that survey, 76 percent of the respondents said it was the rise of a DevOps culture inside of IT that is driving organizations to implement a cloud-first approach to deploying applications.

What’s a little closer to the truth is the simple fact that developers have gotten fed up with the inherently slow rollout of applications deployed using on-premise systems. Thanks to the availability of application programming interfaces (APIs) on public clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), developers discovered they could programmatically provision their own IT infrastructure in a way that enables them to get around their internal IT teams. Since then, internal IT teams have been struggling to catch up by adopting integrated DevOps processes.

But IT never stands still.As they discover the power of the cloud, developers have started to embrace container technologies such as Docker to create applications using what is known as a microservices architecture. The basic idea is that instead of building a monolithic application the developer constructs the application using modules that can be updated easily or replaced by swapping new sets of containers in and out of the application. Inside many organizations, this is leading to a fundamental shift in how applications are managed that will have a profound impact on managed services providers (MSPs).

Shifting responsibilities

Instead of the management of applications revolving around IT operations, the developer is now being tasked with managing the entire life cycle of the application on an end-to-end basis. The primary benefit of this approach is twofold. First, a developer tasked with supporting an application is much more predisposed to write better code. Second, fixing any given problem will occur at a much faster rate.

Obviously, the degree to which organizations embrace this new approach to DevOps will vary widely. Many organizations will prefer to continue to have limited developer resources focus mainly on writing code. Many others, however, are going to put responsibility for all aspects of the application squarely on the individual who wrote the code. The new DevOps mantra is if you wrote it you own it. MSPs will need to adjust to this new DevOps reality.

What developers wants from MSPs

The first thing many MSPs are going to discover is that decisions about which MSP to use are shifting to the developers. The second thing they’ll discover is that what the developer needs them to do is fundamentally different than what a classic internal IT operations team needed.

Developers are generally obsessed with application performance. What they want from an MSP in the age of the cloud will start with as many relevant metrics as possible. Then the developer is going to want to know how fast the MSP can respond to what will surely be a continuous stream of application updates. An approach to protecting those microservices needs to be instantaneous. MSPs that can’t adjust to this new DevOps culture will simply be left behind.

Unfortunately, the IT monitoring tools that most MSPs have in place today can’t see containers. Those tools will need to upgraded in a hurry because when there are thousands of containers vying to access a limited amount of IT infrastructure the amount of I/O contention in the IT environment increases exponentially.

This microservices-based future has already arrived. It’s just, as the saying goes, unevenly distributed. The pressing issue that MSPs need to address now is how to remain relevant in the age of the microservice.

Photo by Erwan Hesry

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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