Last week we had a podcast with Citrix's Rakesh Narasimhan and Sridhar Mullapudi to talk about the future of XenApp and XenDesktop. We were talking about Citrix Workspaces Service (which I love) and how Citrix needs to "bridge" the current, traditional, on-premises XenApp & XenDesktop customers with the future cloud-based products and customers.
I said something about how it must be difficult migrating customers from on-premises to the cloud, and Rakesh mentioned that it's not so much of a migration as it is a coexistence. That's when it sort of clicked with me.
We've traditionally talking about how software companies have to "bridge" the on-premises and cloud-based environments, but a bridge implies that you're on one side, you drive across the bridge, and then you're on the other side. But when it comes to enterprise software, it's not going to be a quick trip. Software companies have to plan for on-premises customers slowly move to the cloud over several versions and several iterations, and those middle steps will have to provide the value all along the way.
So rather than building a bridge, software companies need to fill the expanse so customers can grow from on-premises to the cloud. Getting to the other side doesn't mean abandoning what they have been doing in the past, and the trip to get there may be a destination in and of itself. (In other words, not all customers will go all the way across. Actually, some customers will probably stay right where they are while looking to add some cloud-like capabilities to their existing on-premises installations.)
The way that every company handles this will be different. We can already see some of the early phases of this as software vendors start to add cloud-based extensions into the on-premises versions of their software. And we can all imagine that five years from now, all enterprise software will be "cloud" software—regardless of whether you use it on-premises, in the public cloud, or both. In the meantime, we don't have worry about them abandoning their on-premises customers for the cloud, rather, we can look for them to fill in the gap to allow us to embrace the cloud to whatever degree we want, giving us the option to cross the bridge without forcing us to do so.