For the past few years we (as in the corporate We) have delved into the data center to discover how and why and where enterprises deploy and deliver applications with our State of Application Delivery surveys. We’re focused, of course, on application services, but there’s a broad range of technologies and contextual information that’s both relevant and interesting to that primary concern. Like, no applications, no app services. Applications are kinda at the center of the universe, from where we sit in the network, at least. 

One of the questions we ask is simply how many applications the organization has in their portfolio. Those might be in the cloud, in the data center, hosted, or on a mainframe. We don’t necessarily dig into that (as the survey would get really unwieldy, wouldn’t it?) but rather are just looking to understand just how many applications there really are in any given organization.

Because in practice, we see a wide range of applications being delivered. The average number of virtual servers (which roughly correlate to an application or service) based on actual usage was 122 in July 2016. The maximum we’ve seen? Over 12,000. Yes, that’s right. There’s at least one organization out there with over 12,000 virtual servers (applications) running right now.

Our survey (and actual) data shows that’s definitely an outlier.  Based on our data, with the exception of very large (5000+ employees) organizations, most companies are stewards to between 1 and 200 applications.

 

apps by org size globally

In fact, 54% of respondents globally, across all organizational sizes, are delivering between 1 and 200 applications. 23% deliver between 201 and 500, and another 15% are handling between 501 and 1000.

Very few (9%) are in that “I can’t even count that high” category of 1001 to 3000. But they’re out there. And more than 3000? Even fewer.

According to Ben Kepes, writing for Forbes.com back in July 2014, “An average of 508 applications are used within an enterprise.”    

I think that number represents a typical, large enterprise well enough. For smaller enterprises, I’d cut that number at least in half.

Still, not an insignificant undertaking in any way. Even at 204 applications to scale, secure, and manage is more than enough to keep operations teams’ busier than they’d probably like to be.

The thing is, that number should, ostensibly, be growing. While a good number of applications are moving to the cloud, especially commoditized business apps to SaaS offerings, those “openings” are being filled by other applications. And most of them aren’t whiz-bang-bling mobile apps and games for customers.

According to Salesforce.com “State of IT 2016” the majority of app development resources today (42%) are focused on employee productivity. Internal facing, operational efficiency-focusing, apps.

salesforce-state-of-it-2016Automating business processes, increasing productivity, and increasing data visibility across the business are core IT concerns, many being addressed by the development of apps and systems that achieve those ends.

Some will incorporate cloud, and thus involve APIs and integration work, and others will remain on-premise. Some will require a mobile app, and others a simple web-based interface. All should have APIs, if we’re to follow emerging best practices for “opening up” IT and enabling greater collaboration and reuse.

Regardless, these applications add to the existing load. And they, too, have to be scaled and secured and managed. They must be updated and integrated. They add to the increasing E-W traffic load and when the involve an off-premise cloud solution, they increase the N-S traffic burden as well.

When we think of applications we all too often visualize a glitzy, beautifully designed mobile application. But not all apps the enterprise manages are those kind of apps. Some are purely utilitarian, others designed purely for gathering data remotely and transmitting it securely back to the mothership where it can be sliced, diced, and delivered to analysts who rely on its existence to make business decisions on a daily basis.

It really is an application world, inside and out.