Now that most IT vendors have come to recognize that hybrid cloud computing is an end in itself rather than a means to the public cloud, the battle to dominate the next phase of enterprise computing has begun in earnest.
At the Microsoft Inspire 2017 conference this week, Microsoft formally rolled out Azure Stack, an instance of the platform the company uses to drive its public cloud service that IT organizations can deploy in their local data centers. The only catch is that right now the only way to get Azure Stack is to acquire it as part of a high-end server purchased from Dell EMC, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), or Lenovo.
Microsoft isn't the only vendor with similar hybrid cloud computing ambitions. Rivals such as IBM and Red Hat have been making a case for hybrid cloud computing platforms using a combination of OpenStack cloud management software, the Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment, and Kubernetes, a container orchestration engine employed to manage containers such as Docker. Because all those components are based on open source software there is already a substantial ecosystem of IT vendors contributing code to each of these platforms.
At the same time, however, vendors such as Nutanix are moving to transform themselves into providers of cloud operating systems that can be deployed on-premises or in a public cloud. Plus, VMware is in the process of making its own version of a cloud platform based on its portfolio of software available on-premises as public clouds from providers such as IBM and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Hybrid or multi-cloud?
What passes for hybrid cloud computing today is in fact multi-cloud computing. The most common scenario for many organizations is using VMware on-premises and AWS in the public cloud. But for the most part, each of these stacks of software is managed in isolation. Very rarely is there is a common plane of management software for managing both VMware and AWS. Naturally, there’s more than a few providers of IT management platforms seeking to provide that capability. There’s also plenty of speculation about what AWS might do next. Historically, it has denigrated all things related to on-premises IT. But if Amazon can buy a brick-and-mortar retailer such as Whole Foods, anything is possible.
In the meantime, until more IT organizations reach a higher level of maturity, demand for true hybrid cloud computing environments remains relatively nascent. Managed service providers should benefit tremendously as IT vendors start to pour massive amounts of money into marketing campaigns designed to promote adoption of hybrid cloud computing. The one caveat MSPs need to consider, however, is the amount of resources IT vendors are putting into providing their own managed services.
In fact, there will be more solution providers in the market touting themselves as providers of managed services when it fact they are little more than an agent picking up a commission on the sale of a managed service provided by a vendor. Because of that issue, it’s going to be in the interest of traditional MSPs to promote adoption of hybrid cloud computing across heterogeneous environments. After all, the more complex the hybrid cloud computing environment, the more likely it is an organization will need an MSP to help them wrangle it. Fortunately for MSPs, the two dominant VMware and AWS platforms in use today don’t play nice with one another, and therein lies the hybrid cloud computing opportunity.