Do OpenStack Clouds Matter to MSPs? (A Qualified Yes)
At this week's OpenStack Summit, I ran into Rob Bissett — a familiar name in the managed services provider (MSP) market. Bissett is VP of product management at 6fusion, which makes a cloud metering platform. He previously was at N-able Technologies, which develops MSP-oriented software. Most of our OpenStack coverage surfaced on Talkin' Cloud, MSPmentor's sister site. But should MSPs be watching the open source cloud platform as well? I'll offer a qualified "yes." Here's why.
First, a little background. Bissett and I sat down at a local Starbucks and talked shop. We agreed that many classic managed services (remote PC management, etc.) have gone commodity. In some cases, MSPs must now become cloud services brokers — selecting, sourcing and managing third-party cloud services for end-customers.
Where does OpenStack fit into that conversation? The open source platform is gaining popularity as a public cloud standard (Rackspace, Dell, HP and IBM each are running the software). And there are signs businesses are building private clouds on OpenStack (Best Buy, Bloomberg, Comcast and Hubspot are key adopters).
MSPs and OpenStack: Hits and Misses
So where do MSPs potentially fit into the OpenStack world? I've got a two-part answer:
1. Small MSPs that serve SMB customers: I don't see much of an angle here. I guess it might be smart for small MSPs to have some OpenStack knowledge if they're plugging into clouds run by Rackspace, Dell, HP, IBM, etc. Or perhaps that OpenStack knowledge will help if small MSPs are standing up private clouds for customers. But overall, I think small MSPs will be shielded from OpenStack, focusing instead on applications that run atop the platform.
2. Larger MSPs: Here the OpenStack story appears compelling. I believe the summit attracted more than 2,500 attendees. And most of those attendees were locked in sessions from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily. Attendees are hard core about the OpenStack opportunity.
- For MSPs that stand up their own clouds, there was a lot of talk about bare metal OpenStack. The idea is you can use the software and related tools to transform empty data centers into fully-functioning cloud systems really fast.
- For MSPs that want to deploy and manage private clouds for customers, there were dozens of OpenStack deployment and management tools on hand. Keep an eye on RightScale — which seems to have a lot of mind share in the cloud management market. I know RMM software companies are adjusting for the cloud but NONE of them were on hand for the OpenStack conference. Big mistake. Also, keep an eye on Mirantis, a fast-growing cloud integrator. The company's new FUEL tool speeds OpenStack deployments, and may also allow MSPs to remotely monitor, maintain and upgrade private clouds.
So where is this all going? I found the answer from HubSpot CIO Jim O'Neill. A long-time Rackspace customer, HubSpot sees OpenStack as a way to more easily move workloads between private and public clouds. O'Neill predicts HubSpot will ultimately achieve application nirvana. Thanks to OpenStack, he says, applications can essentially run unchanged whether they're deployed on private or public cloud systems.
Surely, MSPs can't afford to ignore that opportunity. (Can they?)