One-fifth of today's enterprise applications were born in the cloud, surveys suggest

'Let them die in their own lifecycle': Will on-premises applications simply wither away through gradual attrition?

To date, the motis operandi of cloud implementations has been to apply the cloud-first principle to any and all new projects, applications or workloads, while leaving on-premises as is. In other words, cloud adoption grows in proportion through gradual attrition of on-premises systems. Therefore, it's only a matter of cycles before the number of cloud-first generation workloads and systems outnumbers on-premises systems.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

We may be close to one-fifth of the way there, two recent studies suggest. A survey of 100 IT managers from Cohesive Networks calculates that as of today, 18% of organizations have more than half of their workloads are "cloud native." This maps closely to a study involving 902 organizations from Capgemini that estimates about 15% of cloud-native applications are cloud native.

Again, through natural attrition, more applications and workloads will be born in the cloud as they gradually replace on-premises systems. "Enterprises are waiting to adapt existing applications to cloud environments until the end of the useful life of existing data center equipment," the authors of the Cohesive study suggest. It's all happening quickly, though. Capgemini estimates that the slice of cloud-native deployments in enterprises will double over the next three years, to 32%.

There are business advantages being seen when the move to cloud is accelerated. Those enterprises that are fastest in getting new applications and systems up and running are "further ahead in monetizing their application programming interfaces," the Capgemini researchers state. More than eight in ten (84%) in this leader group say moving to cloud native applications and systems has helped them to "increase revenue and reduce operating costs. Almost as many (83%) say they are ahead of their peers when it comes to financial performance."

Unless you're part of a startup doing it all in the cloud right from the start, moving to cloud-native is no walk in the park. "The barriers to implementing a cloud-native strategy are formidable," the Capgemini report authors caution. The greatest hurdle, cited by 70% of the IT executives, is finding or cultivating the right skills to make the leap to cloud-native applications.

The Capgemini authors quote the vice president of technical services for a US restaurant chain, who explains it this way: "As you move toward a cloud-native architecture, the application development community needs to factor in more of the service qualities within the application around performance, scalability, and location transparency. Those qualities aren't necessarily inherent in the mindset of application developers today." Another IT leader observed that training to adopt a cloud-native mentality and expertise tended to be somewhat difficult for "hardware guys and network guys."

Enterprises steeped in existing on-premises environments also encounter additional obstacles. At least 62% of IT executives surveyed report difficulties integrating cloud-native applications with legacy infrastructure. Another roadblock, cited by 58%, is existing contracts with software vendors. Then there are the sunk costs that already have gone into existing technology, an issue for 56% of respondents.

The question is, of course, whether to attempt migrations of non-cloud-native applications from on-premises systems to cloud-based services. The restaurant chain VP quoted in the Capgemini report put it bluntly: let a lot of these apps go. "You're probably better off letting them die in their own lifecycle."

Finally, and very important, are the matters of cybersecurity and data protection. The Cohesive survey finds 60% of respondents only "somewhat" trust security to their IaaS providers, and 30% have no trust at all. The message is, no matter how "cloud-native" you get, don't depend on cloud providers for security. More than half of the IT directors surveyed use additional, independent tools to protect data in shared cloud environments. "As cloud infrastructure resources usually grow organically without a systemic approach of how to protect data from place to place, application owners tend to bolt on security features rather than build in using best practices, the Cohesive study authors state.

(Capgemni's advice on becoming a cloud-native enterprise are summarized in my next post.)

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