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July 26, 2017
The world is becoming increasingly automated.
For MSPs, this means the key to success is identifying processes that can't be automated and building service offerings around them.
In today's software economy, automation is king.
Automation is the only way you can build large systems at scale.
It's also essential for optimizing maintenance costs and resource consumption.
Tools that provide automation are everywhere you look.
They include solutions like Continuous Integration servers (like Jenkins and Bamboo), orchestrators for cloud infrastructure and containers (such as Kubernetes) and Infrastructure-as-Code engines (like Chef and Ansible), to name just a few examples.
You Can't Automate Everything
If you're in the managed IT services business, the proliferation of automation tools may seem threatening.
MSPs make money by providing services that their clients don't want to provide themselves.
If clients can automate those services using software tools, the burden of providing them becomes smaller, and the clients may no longer seek the help of MSPs.
However, not all IT tasks and processes can be automated.
MSPs who want to survive the automation revolution need to identify services that are difficult to automate, such as:
· Network architecture planning. Software tools can help monitor and manage computer networks. They may also be able to automate some aspects of policy configuration. But planning a network architecture is a complicated task that can't be consigned to a tool.
· Security. There is no shortage of tools to help secure networks and data. However, tools alone can't prevent security breaches. (If they could, we would not have so many breaches.) Organizations need security experts to help them protect their assets against attackers.
· Data recovery. Data backups are easy to automate, but restoring data following a major failure requires expertise and manual control. This is a service MSPs can provide.
· Hardware maintenance. No matter how sophisticated software tools become, they can't fix broken disks or dispose of decommissioned hardware. MSPs can do these things and more as part of managed hardware services.
· Software support. Tools can automate software maintenance to a large extent. Sooner or later, however, every organization runs into a support problem with an application or infrastructure that can't be solved by a script. This is when manual intervention from an expert becomes a necessity.
Forward-thinking MSPs should build managed services offerings around needs like those listed above.
These are the areas where organizations will continue to need help even after they have automated the rest of their software delivery processes.
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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