For the better part of the past decade the debate over what percentage of application workloads will wind up running in the cloud versus on premise has been fierce. At the moment, the vast majority of application workloads still run on premise. But, it’s also apparent that a much larger percentage of new application workloads are being deployed in the cloud.
At the VMworld 2016 conference this week, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger estimated that it will be 2021 before even half of all application workloads will be running in the cloud. And of that, only 30 percent will be running on a public cloud. The other 20 percent will be running on some form of private cloud running on premise or on a third-party hosting service. In fact, Gelsinger posited that the managed hosting market will grow from $60 billion to $110 billion by 2021.
The influence of containers and virtual machines
For IT services providers, the math tells the story. For all the hype surrounding public clouds like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, claims that every type of application workload will move into the public cloud are simply unfounded. In fact, thanks to the rise of Flash memory and software-defined infrastructure, the total cost of standing up a private cloud is only going to get lower. That means most latency-sensitive applications will be more likely to stay on premise. Add in concerns about governance and security alongside a significant amount on inertia on the part of internal IT organizations, and it’s clear that IT service providers will need to manage a variety of existing computing models and multi-cloud environments for at least another decade.
The rise of containers and microservices could potentially make matters even more challenging. Not only will there be multiple types of virtual machines distributed across the enterprise, containers will soon be more common place both as an alternative to virtual machines and as a complementary technology that gets deployed on top of virtual machines. In fact, containers aren't just for new applications. Many IT organizations will soon be looking to wrap legacy code in a container to make that code more accessible to a variety of new microservices.
The struggle to stay relevant
In Gelsinger’s worldview, VMware becomes the dominant provider of the framework needed to manage that complexity. For many IT service providers, the issue with that is the amount of licensing fees they might have to pay. Because of that issue, there’s a massive amount of interest in open source technologies such as OpenStack. In truth, most IT services providers will wind up employing a mix of management tools spanning OpenStack as well as a variety of commercial offerings from a small army of vendors.
The difference between success and failure, however, will invariably come down to which IT service providers can cost-effectively support the broadest number of computing models simultaneously. Of course, an IT service provider may simply choose to ignore one model in favor of another at their own peril. But, you never know when someone at a customer site is going to discover the next cool thing that needs to be supported externally. That in turn usually leaves the door open for rival IT service providers to start servicing that account should it be determined that the incumbent IT service provider lacks the skill required to remain relevant.