Thursday, January 07, 2016

IDC survey says: Go cloud-native but modernize too

IDC’s recent survey of “cloud native” early adopters tells us that existing applications and infrastructure aren’t going away. 83 percent expect to continue to support existing applications and infrastructure for the next three years. In fact, those who are furthest along in shifting to distributed, scale-out, microservices-based applications are twice as likely to say that they are going to take their time migrating than those who are less experienced with implementing cloud native applications and infrastructure. It’s easier to be optimistic when you haven’t been bloodied yet!

IDC conducted this survey of 301 North America and EMEA enterprises on Red Hat’s behalf; the results are published in an December 2015 IDC InfoBrief entitled Blending Cloud Native & Conventional Applications: 10 Lessons Learned from Early Adopters.

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It’s worth noting that even these cloud native early adopters plan to also modernize their existing conventional infrastructure. For example, in addition to the 51 percent continuing with their virtualization plans, 42 percent plan to migrate to software-defined storage/networking and to containerize applications currently running on virtual or physical servers. 

This is an important point. The bimodal IT concept—originally a Gartnerism but now used pretty widely to connote two speeds or two modes of IT delivery—is sometimes critiqued for a variety of reasons. (To be covered in a future post.) However, perhaps the most common criticism is that Mode 1 is a Get Out of Jail Free card for IT organizations wanting to just continue down a business as usual path. This survey shows that those furthest along in transitioning to cloud-native don’t see things that way at all. (It should be mentioned that Gartner doesn’t either and sees modernization as a key component of Mode 1.)

Open source was almost universally seen as playing a key role in any such strategy with 96 percent viewing open source as an enabler of cloud native integration and conventional app modernization. No surprises there. An earlier IDC survey on DevOps early adopters found a similar view of open source with respect to DevOps tooling.

The study also found that security and integration were important elements of a cloud native transition strategy. For example, 51 percent identified security, user access control, and compliance policies as a technical factor that would have have the greatest impact on their organization’s decisions about whether applications are best supported by conventional or cloud native architectures.

The #2 factor (42 percent) was the ability to support/integrate with existing databases and conventional applications--highlighting the need for management tools and process integration between new applications and existing workflows, apps, and data stores. Business Process Optimization was identified as an important integration element. Strategies included structured and unstructured data integration, business process automation, model-driven process management, and the use of an enterprise service bus and cloud APIs.

If I had to choose one word to convey the overall gestalt of the survey, I think I’d choose “pragmatic.” IDC surveyed cloud native early adopters, so these are relatively leading edge IT organizations. Yet, these same organizations also emphasized SLAs and minimizing business risks. They stress avoiding business and end-user disruption. They plan to transition gradually.  

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