I was recently invited to speak with some customers about Dell EMC's plans around Azure Stack. As we were progressing through the meeting, one frustrated participant remarked "This is offensive". That was a new one to me. I don't think he was referring to me, but the idea that the IT market is changing yet again, and even before he was comfortable in the world of software-defined infrastructure. I understand that – the idea that you need to start thinking about the next transformation when you're in the midst of the current one is uncomfortable at best. But let's consider a few fairly uncontroversial concepts:
- In order to build a modern application, you need access to services like object storage, microservices, software defined networking, and more. In short, you need a cloud platform with PaaS services
- Enterprise applications like Exchange, SharePoint, and SAP are not encased in amber, frozen for all time. They all have a mission to deliver value to their customers. They need to be modernized in order to continue delivering that value and compete.
So, if you need a PaaS platform to deliver a modern application, and we can count on software vendors to modernize their applications, here's the uncomfortable truth:
If you want to run enterprise applications on premises in 10 years, you will be running at least some of them on PaaS. So you should start planning your PaaS strategy NOW.
You should be doing this with your entire team, asking vendors of your critical applications what their PaaS plans are, and getting your staff familiar with and used to managing PaaS platforms. Bi-modal IT - the idea of keeping part of your team focused on the transformation in process, while having another team look at the next transformation – is tempting. But remember: the longer an organization attempts to shield part of the team from change, the further behind they will be when that change comes.
And the change is closer at hand than most realize. PaaS platforms are already mature and robust – the only thing preventing PaaS adoption by these software vendors is ubiquity. Many of the PaaS platforms are locked into public cloud paradigms or lack the simplicity to gain the market share needed to convince vendors that it's worth targeting any particular PaaS platform. But that is changing, and soon. Appliance based solutions like the Dell EMC Native Hybrid Cloud are already on the market, and Microsoft will be entering the fray with Azure Stack solutions later this year. These solutions are inexpensive, efficient, well-documented, and easy to deploy and maintain.
Transformation is hard, and there are few industries like information technology that have such rapid transformation cycles. But at the same time, we don't need to dread the next transformation. The very idea of PaaS is to minimize the headaches presented by IaaS. We should embrace the revolution.