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There’s no doubt that the rate application workloads are moving into the public clouds is starting to accelerate. However, it is less clear what the biggest opportunities are for managed service providers (MSPs).

There is money to be made by helping organizations move application workloads to the cloud, as well as helping them manage those workloads. However, there will be many application workloads running in on-premises IT environments for many years to come. Each of those environments needs to eventually be integrated with application workloads running in public clouds, which represents a more complex challenge.

A survey of 750 executives, individual contributors, and team managers with responsibility for or knowledge of their organization’s cloud infrastructure was conducted by the market research firm Vanson Bourne, on behalf of Barracuda Networks, and highlights the scope of the challenge. The survey finds organizations, on average, currently have 45 percent of IT infrastructure running in the public cloud. That percentage is expected to rise to 76 percent in five years.

The degree to which that transition might occur is debatable

With large numbers of workloads running in public clouds, it appears that finding ways to integrate those workloads with legacy IT environments has become a major priority. The survey finds about a quarter of respondents (23 percent) have already deployed a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN). However, more than half (51 percent) are either in the process of deploying or expecting to deploy within the next 12 months. After security, the second biggest public cloud concern survey respondents identified is integration with legacy IT environments and private clouds residing in an on-premises IT environment.

Of course, security is also a primary reason any organization is going to adopt an SD-WAN in the first place. In addition to lowering networking costs, SD-WANs provide a more secure overlay over public internet connections. In fact, 70 percent of survey respondents said security concerns are hampering their adoption of public cloud computing platforms.

There’s nothing simple about setting up and deploying SD-WANs at scale, which is why MSPs are seeing so much interest in the category even among customers that previously would never have considered relying on a managed service. While SD-WANs as a category have been red hot for some time now, the bulk of the SD-WAN opportunity is still to come.

Unfortunately, there’s often a tendency to focus on only one opportunity to the exclusion of almost all else. While it’s clear to everyone there’s a lot of opportunity in the public cloud itself, it may very well turn out that there’s even more money to be made by providing connectivity services to those clouds. Not all workloads will wind up running in public clouds, so the need to provide networking services will always be present.

Of course, being able to provide those networking and security services in addition to basic cloud services requires a lot of additional expertise. Nevertheless, most MSPs will discover the time, money, and other resources spent required to gain those skills will have been well worth the effort.

Photo:Victoria Shapiro / Shutterstock

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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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