Trust is Dying: How MSPs Should Prepare for the Trustless Future

Technologies such as blockchain, smart contracts and open source are ushering in an age where users no longer have to trust service providers. MSPs should update their strategies to embrace the trustless future.

Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

November 16, 2017

2 Min Read
Blockchain Smart Contract Diagram

If you’re an MSP, you built your business on trust.

Yet trust is disappearing.

Here’s what that means for your business.

Managed services business, like any type of conventional business, are founded on trust.

Customers trust you to meet the promises you make to them — and, ideally, exceed those promises.

In turn, you trust your customers not only to pay you as agreed, but to work with you in good faith, and help you help them.

The Decline of Trust

If you look around the world of software and computing today, you’ll notice that trust is in decline.

We are moving toward a trustless world.

The most obvious example of the trustless phenomenon is the rise of blockchain.

One of blockchain’s most important features is its ability to support “smart contracts.”

A smart contract allows an agreement to be enforced automatically.

With a smart contract, instead of having to trust the people with whom you make an agreement to do what they say — or rely on the intervention of a third party (like a court) to sort out disputes — you have confidence that you’ll get what you were promised because the blockchain sees to it automatically.

The popularity of open source software and open standards is also driven, in part, by the decline of trust.

One of the benefits of open source and open standards is that they restore power to end-users.

Instead of trusting a software vendor to develop the features you request, or to ensure interoperability between their platform and others that you use, you can use open source and do what you wish without having to trust others.

Open source also allows you to inspect applications in order to understand how they operate “under the hood,” rather than trusting the word of developers.

MSPs and a Post-Trust World

To prepare for the trustless future, MSPs should embrace techniques that make it possible to remove trust as the cornerstone of service delivery.

This doesn’t mean you should stop trusting your customers in a human sense, of course.

By all means, continue maintaining the personal trust that is foundational to human relationships.

But when it comes to delivering managed IT services, promises, contracts and conventional SLAs are not enough to provide the assurance that software users seek in a trustless world.

Technologies like smart contracts are one way to do this.

The SLAs of the future might be enforced on the blockchain in such a way that failure to meet the SLA automatically cancels payment, for example.

More generally, MSPs should strive for transparency.

They should build businesses and embrace technologies that eliminate the need for customers to trust them — not because trust is a bad thing, but because it should not be an essential thing in business.

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About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.

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