August 20, 2017

Just about every IT organization realizes by now that making the transition to the cloud is a journey. It begins with a few small steps involving a few software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and firing up a few virtual machines on a public cloud. But that’s only the beginning of a transition to cloud-native applications that consists of multiple approaches to microservices.

Angel Diaz, vice president of cloud architecture and technology for IBM, says the desire to embrace those approaches to cloud-native applications is fueling much of the demand for IBM Cloud, which IBM says experienced a 33 percent sales jump in its most recent fourth quarter.

Obviously, IBM Cloud offering span multiple categories that go beyond microservices and containers. But Diaz notes that increased adoption of IBM Cloud shows IT organizations are starting down a path to eventually adopting cloud-native applications based on microservices. Those applications, says Diaz, typically come in three forms. IT organizations implement a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment, they deploy Docker containers on either physical servers or virtual machines or the start making use of event-driven architectures associated with serverless computing architectures.

Diaz concedes that the term “cloud-native” will need to be defined more precisely in 2017. But IBM cloud computing results show that a long-anticipated shift by enterprise IT organizations is well underway. In fact, IBM has been joined by double-digit sales growth of cloud services by both Microsoft and Oracle.

The issue facing IT organizations is what comes next. It’s one thing for a small team of developers to host an application or two on the cloud. Deployment of cloud-native applications at scale will force organizations to rethink their entire DevOps process. That shift, notes Diaz, involves as much cultural change as it does new technologies such as containers.

Today, Diaz says, much of the early adoption of cloud-native technologies such as containers occurs on public clouds. But it’s only a matter of time before hybrid cloud computing based on containers that can be easily deployed on multiple private and public clouds becomes more common. Instead of having to worry about getting locked into a specific cloud platform, Docker containers give IT organizations a lot more freedom to deploy application workloads wherever they best see fit.

What impact that shift will have on a public cloud market that is currently dominated by Amazon Web Service (AWS) remains to be seen. AWS has consistently driven approaches to cloud computing that require the application workload to run on its cloud. IBM, Microsoft and Oracle are all separately moving down a hybrid cloud computing path that better reflects the needs of enterprise IT organizations. Implementing a hybrid cloud IT environment is considerably easier using containers than it is without them. In fact, AWS already supports containers, which, by de facto, means AWS—to at least one degree—is supporting hybrid cloud computing scenarios, whether it likes it or not.

The IT industry is only at the end of the beginning for cloud computing. Microservices and containers clearly represent a new cloud computing chapter that has yet to be fully written.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.