IBM Cloud CTO Sees Cloud-Native Rising

IBM is witnessing a surge in cloud-native due to the adoption of Kubernetes

While it is very clear many applications are now being deployed on cloud platforms, there’s a lot of nuances when it comes to determining precisely what types of applications are actually being deployed. The first wave of cloud applications was monolithic as IT organizations essentially lifted and shifted legacy applications on to public cloud platforms. However, the next generation of cloud-native applications is being built using microservices based on containers that primarily run of Kubernetes platforms.

Jason McGee, vice president and CTO for the IBM Cloud, says based on what IBM is seeing, the mix of monolithic and cloud-native applications being deployed in the cloud is now roughly equal. In addition, many of the monolithic applications initially deployed in the cloud are being modified with extensions based on microservices that make it easier to add additional functionality. For example, McGee notes that American Airlines, after migrating applications running on VMware to IBM Cloud, is now aggressively begun to embrace cloud-native applications. That becomes feasible, in part, because IBM Cloud is built on top of Kubernetes, he says.

IBM as of late has been riding a surge of cloud migrations. The company reports in its latest quarter cloud revenues grew 21% to $6.8 billion. McGee says a lot of that growth is being fueled by Red Hat, which IBM acquired last year for $34 billion. Revenue from the cloud and cognitive software segment of IBM, which includes Red Hat, rose 8.7% to $7.2 billion in the fourth quarter. Interest in the Red Hat OpenShift application development and deployment platform, which is based on Kubernetes, is starting to accelerate, he says.

Less clear is what will constitute a cloud going forward. IBM and Red Hat are betting that hybrid cloud computing environments will become pervasive as organizations deploy cloud platforms within on-premises IT environments and at the network edge. Of course, if everything becomes a cloud, then the term “cloud computing” may simply dissipate.

In the meantime, McGee says it’s unclear to what degree IT organizations will want to rely on IT vendors to manage increasingly complex IT environments versus managing those environments themselves. Right now, there is a shortage of IT skills so many organizations are relying on cloud service providers to deploy and manage both platforms such as Kubernetes and serverless computing frameworks. As IT teams become more comfortable with cloud-native platforms, however, that tendency may decline.

Regardless of the approach, there will soon be a lot more instances of Kubernetes being employed across the extended enterprise. Organizations of all sizes are embracing Kubernetes and other cloud-native technologies to accelerate the rate at which applications can be built and deployed. In many cases, that shift is requiring organizations to adopt best DevOps practices more broadly across their organizations.

It’s too early to say to what degree IBM will be able to sustain the benefits of this transition. The migration to the cloud is lifting all IT vendor boats to one degree or another. The real challenge facing IBM now is turning that investment in Red Hat into an advantage that truly differentiates IBM through the next decade and beyond.

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.

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