We're living in a post-operating system age -- at least from the users' perspective.
Customers no longer expect to have to think about operating system compatibility.
As an MSP, your job is to free them of this burden.
"Does it run on my OS?" used to be the first question a user asked about an application.
Today, however, new technologies make this a much less common query.
Those technologies include:
- Cloud computing. In the cloud, you can spin up virtual machines easily using virtually any type of Linux distribution or version of Windows that you want. (You'll be harder-pressed to run macOS in the cloud.) Operating system choice still matters in most cloud environments, but the fact that you can create new machine instances quickly based on the operating system of your choice makes operating system compatibility issues less challenging.
- Virtual machines. Virtualization didn't make operating systems entirely irrelevant. But they provide more flexibility to switch applications from one environment to another.
- Docker containers. With Docker, you can "build, ship and run any app anywhere" (to quote the official Docker mantra). Docker goes further than virtualization by making operating system compatibility issues totally irrelevant -- at least for some apps.
Thanks to these technologies, we are living in a "post-operating system" world.
Operating systems still exist, of course.
But they are no longer something that users expect to have to worry about.
Instead, users expect to be able to run their apps on whichever operating system they happen to use.
Operating System Compatibility Caveats
But there's more to the story than these technologies imply.
While technologies like the cloud, virtualization and Docker make it easier to run some applications anywhere, they don't solve every operating system compatibility problem.
Docker doesn't support all applications and platforms.
It won't help you run a Windows app on an Android tablet, for example.
And while the cloud simplifies application deployment, not every user is qualified to spin up a cloud-based environment to meet his or her application deployment needs.
So, we're living in a world where consumers no longer expect to have to think about operating system compatibility -- but at the same time, compatibility issues still exist in many cases.
MSPs in the Post-Operating System World
This is where MSPs come in.
MSPs can help to smooth over operating system compatibility challenges for their clients.
They can do the complicated work required to virtualize or containerize legacy applications in order to make them operating system-agnostic.
Or they can deliver software as a service so that users can access it from their Web browsers or phones, without having to worry about operating system compatibility.
In short, MSPs can bridge the gap between user expectations and reality.
We're not really living in a totally post-operating system world.
But MSPs can bring us closer.