Cloud Services: Friend or Foe to the MSP?
by December 5, 2011

Filed under: Industry Insights

Many managed service providers (MSPs) that once viewed cloud computing as a competitive threat are now building their own cloud services portfolios, often with the support of public cloud services or Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers like Amazon Web Services and Rackspace. Partnering spares MSPs the capital expense of building and maintaining world-class, massively scalable IT infrastructure while minimizing operational and engineering overhead.

Cloud Computing_In the Cloud

 

As the distinction between managed services and cloud services blurs, so does the complex blend of infrastructure, applications and services that MSPs deliver to clients. MSPs that manage their clients’ hosted and/or cloud-based applications need deep insight into the performance of those applications from the end user’s viewpoint. That calls for a different set of tools from what MSPs have traditionally used to manage and troubleshoot on-premise infrastructure.

To manage off-premise or hosted applications and services, MSPs need the capability to look “past the firewall” in both directions to monitor and troubleshoot network performance — because the reliability, availability and performance of cloud-based and SaaS applications is only as good as the networks that deliver the applications to users.

Customer satisfaction and retention is dependent on the ability to proactively monitor distributed network infrastructure in relation to clients’ experience of application performance, and to quickly identify, isolate and resolve performance issues. MSPs moving into the cloud also need to be able to validate SLAs and QoS for their customer’s business critical applications and networks.

A few IaaS providers, which host cloud and other services on behalf of MSPs and VARs, are beginning to offer their MSP and VAR partners the competitive advantage of comprehensive visibility into end user network and application performance. For example, wholesale IaaS provider Artisan Infrastructure has partnered with AppNeta to enable MSPs and VARs to pre-assess, continuously monitor and rapidly troubleshoot customer network problems and performance challenges that directly impact business productivity and user experience.

Traditional MSPs looking to move to hosted or SaaS-type models for services like telephony, unified communications, desktop virtualization and virtual storage can leverage an IaaS provider’s network performance monitoring services to offer their customers best-in-class, real-time and historical performance management data from the LAN into the cloud and back. This includes key metrics relevant to SLAs, such as bandwidth, latency, jitter and packet loss.

Not only does this level of insight enable MSPs to find and fix network performance problems quickly, it also gives them a new recurring revenue service that both differentiates them from competitors and adds value for customers. And because the service can be accessed remotely from any location, it reduces the need to roll a truck or put technicians on-site. MSPs can also use the service to offer pre-deployment assessments, which can both be profitable and increase deployment success.