A few weeks ago Gartner released a report stating a rise in IT spending for the coming fiscal year of 2013-14. It is definitely a silver lining considering slow growth for more than three years now. In a recently-conducted survey including more than 140 CFOs by leading research firm Gartner, 50 percent of CFOs have plan to increase their IT budget for 2013, which is 42 percent more than last year. This clearly defines that businesses have started realizing the importance of IT in their growth and profitability. The diagram below (click the image below to see a larger version), taken from one of the surveys published by Gartner, states various challenges that CFOs wants CIOs to overcome to mark their contribution and importance as a C-Level executive for organization’s growth and development.
Businesses are clearly considering IT as a major contributor for their growth and expansion, but will IT be able to meet those expectations? How can an MSP benefit from these developments? Last year MSP Mentor conducted a survey with top MSPs around the world. They were asked about the top services they offered and the results didn’t surprise me much. Infrastructure--monitoring topped the charts with 96.6 percent of MSPs voting for it.
In my previous blog, I mentioned how MSPs can turn this economic downturn in their favor, since Enterprises will have to focus on their core business. This is when the market for Infrastructure Management-as-a-Service (IMaaS) comes into picture. MSPs work in a very competitive landscape. Those who master efficient IMaaS at its most efficient way stay in the race. Often MSPs are measured by the number of devices that are monitored by an employee, which is very different from the way Enterprises work. This means that cost-management becomes a decisive factor to lead the completion along with maintaining a healthy profit margin.
A few points to add to your checklist before finalizing your IMaaS plans include:
1) Multi-level Branding
Branding is often a concern for MSPs and its customers. It affects the end-users’ perception while working on a user console or while generating performance reports. Usually re-branding is classified in two broad categories for MSPs:
- MSP-level rebranding This is a must-have when you are considering any solution for IMaaS, since this helps to spread the brand name among different users.
- End customer re-branding Sometime end-customers would want employees to see only their brand. This third level of branding can sometimes be a deal-breaking feature.
2) High Availability architecture
The last thing any NOC engineer would want is a black screen on the monitoring solution! As seen in the Gartner’s survey-report diagram, the dependency of businesses on IT is critical. Enterprises expect availability with nine 9s. MSPs in this stringent situation must consider failover architecture to ensure highest availability of their services.
High availability ensures that the monitoring solution is available even during an unavoidable situation that could take place due to environmental issues such as server-environment issues, corruption in Operating Systems, power failures or unavailability of network. In such cases a connected stand-by server can save MSPs from losing important information due to things going out of control. High-availability architecture provides fault tolerance and ensures that all Single Points of Failure (SPOFs) are eliminated.
3) License Metering
In enterprises usually a perpetual or annual subscription licensing model works, but that might not be a feasible option for MSPs everytime. Most MSP services are charged on usage basis, but sometimes it becomes important that MSPs should consider solution-licensing based on a device count. Big vendors, who do not have a separate plan for MSPs, generally sell solutions based on solution-packages to meet their needs. MSPs need to be careful while negating the billing format. Vendors, like ManageEngine, provide licensing based on the number of devices to be monitored.
Multi-tenancy or customer segmentation is the ability to monitor solutions to manage the infrastructure of multiple customers from a single console. It allows MSPs to segregate the data and infrastructure of end-customers based on sites. Multi-tenancy allows MSPs to easily scale and expand the feature. This is the most important feature that can help them to thrive in the business. Multi-tenancy also allows secured access to data with various role-based privileges. This determines how IMaaS is delivered to various customers based on:
- Data-segregation including central console for alarm-management
- Role-based access privileges
- Administrative privileges to determine who sees what
One of the major concerns for MSPs has been the inability to scale their services horizontally due to vendor-specific monitoring tools. Just like one size doesn’t fit everyone, a single infrastructure vendor can’t meet the growing demands of enterprises. Majority of the enterprises today have multi-vendor IT infrastructure. MSPs can’t depend on vendor-specific monitoring tools and expect their business to grow. While evaluating management-software MSPs should check the ability of the tools to support multiple vendors and the flexibility of the tool to add new vendors. This would allow MSPs to:
- Control unnecessary expenses
- Flexibility to expand the service offering
- Control the entire IT infrastructure from a single console
Suvish Viswanathan is the Sr. Analyst at ManageEngine, a division of Zoho Corp where he manages the product marketing department for its Unified IT management solution offering. He plays a key role in addressing various issues and solutions in enterprise IT and MSPs with decision makers and organizations on increasing their IT productivity. Prior to ManageEngine, he worked as a global market/sales analyst for Syscon. You can reach him on LinkedIn or follow his tweets at: @suvishv