There’s a tendency to think of the cloud as having some state of permanence. Cloud computing, however, by its very nature is ephemeral. The data centers that make up the cloud are physical assets that are not going anywhere. But the workloads that run on those clouds tend to move around quite a bit.

In fact, Michelle Bailey, group vice president and general manager for cloud, data center and digital transformation services at International Data Corp. (IDC) notes that 80 percent of the IT organizations surveyed have repatriated an application that ran on a public cloud back to an on-premises environment.

Speaking at the Ingram Micro ONE 2018 conference this week, Bailey says the survey made it clear most customers (64 percent) are employing multiple clouds. The degree to which those clouds are interoperate varies widely. IDC finds that only 24 percent of IT organizations have a high degree of interoperability between their cloud environments, while another seven percent says they have managed to build a true hybrid cloud. Another 40 percent say they have achieved low interoperability between their clouds.

As cloud computing continues to evolve, it’s clear that the level of interoperability between clouds and on-premises IT environments will continue to rise. This week, IBM pledged $34 billion to acquire Red Hat for just that reason. IDC refers to this shift as “The Third Platform.”

The most intriguing aspect of all this interoperability in the cloud is that, in theory, it makes any cloud a natural extension of any other. An application developed on one cloud might easily be deployed on another cloud or on-premises IT environment assuming, of course, the organization developing that application did not rely on any proprietary application programming interfaces (APIs). The term cloud computing itself might one day simply evaporate because simply referring to enterprise IT will assume there are external services being employed.

Regardless of how any analyst firm might define this shift, Bailey told conference attendees that as interoperability across multiple clouds increases, IT solution providers stand to benefit.

IT complexity can be a good thing

“Complexity is good for you,” says Bailey. “It means you’ll be around for a very long time.”

Many of those IT solution providers, however, might not recognize themselves in the near future, adds Bailey. IDC research finds that only 17 percent of solution providers expect to be relying on the same business models they have today within the next two years.

As IT solution providers transform, there’s also no doubt that new skill sets will be required. Providing managed services across multiple clouds is much different than providing them to a single on-premised IT environment. Customers, for example, are going to expect that managed service providers (MSPs) will be able to shift workloads around without impacting performance or requiring them to be constantly extracting, transforming, and loading (ETL) data between IT environments. Moving data is not only time consuming; it’s often prohibitively expensive.

Regardless of how solution providers master the public cloud, the one thing they can count on is that many internal IT organizations will not be up to the challenge. As the IT environment becomes more distributed, the ability of a single IT organization to manage all those environments on their own diminishes. In short, multi-cloud computing may be the best thing to happen to MSPs in a very long time.

Photo:  Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock.

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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