This may be difficult to fathom for many tech users but large companies tend to think of technology as a homogenous affair. 

That is, if they are a Microsoft shop then they are a Microsoft shop all the way. They use Exchange for email, Skype for Business for chat and video, SharePoint for storage and OneDrive for productivity.

Then they get to the cloud and their eyes are opened to the joys of a heterogeneous IT environment. 

No, as it turns out, they don't have to use Skype for Business or, if they are in the Google Cloud, Google Hangouts for chat and video. They can use Slack for chat and Blue Jeans for video. Yes, two apps for one function! Because one of the benefits of the cloud is that deploying apps is so very, very easy.

This exploration of the homogenous versus heterogeneous IT environment was one of the main themes in BetterCloud's newly-released The 2016 State of Cloud IT Report, a five-month study on the software-as-a-service ecosystem.

It has clear implications for vendors in both environments. For the HipChats and Zendesks and Vonages of the world, the growing acceptance of — and actual migration into — the cloud by enterprises opens up new markets and customers possibilities.

For Microsoft, Google and others, this migration is very welcome as well ... until that is, companies start looking at competing apps.

So Many Choices

By 2017 the average number of cloud applications under IT control will be 17, according to the BetterCloud report. Today it is eight.

"When companies move the cloud they realize how much easier it is to move in and out of these best-of-breed applications," Taylor Gould, VP of Marketing for the New York City-based ISV, told CMSWire.  

It is not a realization they come to immediately, he said. "Google and Microsoft are the ones that are holding the customers' hands while they migrate to the cloud and of course they are not going to tell them, 'one of the benefits of moving to the cloud is it is very easy for you to use our competitors apps too.'"

To be clear, large companies and their management and IT workers are hardly ignorant of such basic trends as the ability to go online to use, say, Slack.

But when they make the move to the cloud, their employees are more inclined to tinker with it for work use.  Management then becomes more inclined — and this is key for vendors — to graduate their workers from the free offerings to the enterprise grade ones as they see how productive they (the apps, that is) can be.

BetterCloud's Example

A variation of that happened to BetterCloud, Taylor said. The company has always been in the cloud, but it was mainly a Google shop. Then, some of the staff moved away from Google Hangouts and starting using Slack instead.

After a period of this informal use, the company decided to officially support it, he said.

"Now we are spending almost as much on Slack as we do on Google Apps."

The Next Stage

BetterCloud’s experience also provides a glimpse of what comes next for the market as cloud migration continues.

For one, the migration to the cloud means less routine work for IT and more time for creative projects. But as these companies start to add more and more third-party apps, IT admins will find their workloads may shift back to the routine.

"To provision or deep provision a user can take a system admin a couple of hours," Taylor said. When there is just IT employee to serve more than 100 employees, such as with BetterCloud, that can add up very quickly time-wise.

And then the cycle starts again. The new challenges will open up new opportunities for startups. The next Slack or HipChat could well be a scrappy company that figured out how to automate one action, such as deep provisioning a new user, across multiple cloud applications.