MSPmentor Blog

Cloud Computing: Why MSPs Need A Single Dashboard

Service Providers are worried about the future prospects of their current managed service offerings in the face of emerging competition. More and more customer compute dollars could flow toward cloud providers with huge scale advantages like Amazon, Google and Microsoft.  I get the concern. But the cloud genie is not going back in the bottle. Here's how to move forward.

End users of all sizes are already embracing public cloud services. SPs can either understand this as a fact of life and figure out ways to add value in a cloud delivered IT world or be destined for irrelevance. On the other hand, the “ahead of the curve” guys -- the SPs that understand the concept of  “Unified Monitoring” will certainly thrive.  The key Unified Monitoring concept to keep in mind -- to stay ahead of the curve -- is the “Single Pane of Glass” Service Delivery Portal.

Everything In One Place

End users do not want to look at three, four, five or more different portals for information on system performance and availability -- one branded portal from their SaaS Provider, one from their Managed Hosting Provider, one from their Cloud Provider, Collocation Site and Internal IT -- Yikes!  That dispersion of information is inherently very risky, time consuming and inefficient. So consolidating the data from all providers into a single, secure, Unified Service Delivery Portal is a very high value Managed Service in itself.

The next step up the value chain is transforming the data inside the Service Delivery Portal into actionable information in order to help customers make smarter cloud decisions.  For example, a Service Provider could instrument and compare the email transit times between Google Business Email and Microsoft Exchange Online for a customer evaluating cloud delivered email.   While certainly not the only relevant data point to analyze, end to end measurement of cloud services is typical of the monitoring that can be done right now.  By the way, isn’t this the same type of work that SPs do every day to help their customers choose between HP and IBM servers, NetApp and EMC storage and so on?  Same trusted advisor role – simply different technologies to evaluate and recommend.

Here’s an even stronger value add example from a cloud delivered world.  Say you have a customer using Amazon’s EC2 compute services - in addition to the managed services you provide - in addition to the stuff they run internally.  What can you do, as an SP, as trusted advisor, if Amazon’s EC2 performance starts to degrade or fails completely?  You may think, “It’s Amazon’s problem.”  I can’t task a bunch of smartie engineers to fix Amazon. You would be perfectly right about that, but that’s old school MSP thinking.

If you were already monitoring Amazon’s EC2 -- you could implement EC2 transaction-based performance thresholds based on customer business requirements. Then if the EC2 service begins to degrade -- a performance threshold will breach, launch an alarm to your NOC, and you proactively help your customer shift workloads to another provider before the services crash.  Seems like a very high value managed service to me -- one that customers will appreciate and buy - and one that today’s SPs are well positioned to execute.  Think of it as a cloud variant of the High Availability (HA) services you architect and deliver today.

Your Brand First

Anybody that sells anything for a living knows about the critical nature of account control. Whether you are Google, ESPN or a Mid-Sized Service Provider Account Executive carrying a bag, you probably spend a lot of time keeping your brand prominently in front of customers and your competitors’ brand as invisible as possible.  Here’s the problem – your customers are going to go somewhere for cloud instrumentation.  It is their responsibility to stay on top of all IT systems regardless of where the service originates.  Personally, if I were an SP with customers using public cloud services I would burn the midnight oil figuring out how to keep my customers at my branded service delivery portal rather than having them “change the channel” to go get it at Amazon or another SP competitor.  This strikes me as a no brainer – be the center of the customer’s IT world – your brand preeminent 24x7x365.

End users need help making sense of their cloud options.  The Service Delivery Portal -- the single pane of glass -- is the concept that SPs need to wrap their mind around to stay trusted advisor and primary service provider.

Phil LaForge is VP and GM, service providers at Nimsoft. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of MSPmentor's annual sponsorship. Read all of Nimsoft's guest blogs here.
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