Memo to MSPs: Can You Manage OpenStack Clouds?

Where are MSP software platforms heading next? Perhaps ZOHO Corp. President Raj Sabhlok -- who runs ManageEngine and Zoho -- can offer some clues. ManageEngine's software already allows MSPs to manage on-premises systems plus Windows Azure (Microsoft's cloud), Ruby on Rails and Amazon S3. So what's next? The answer might be OpenStack cloud management. Here's why.

A small but growing number of MSPs are seeking a single dashboard to manage both on-premises and cloud systems. Level Platforms CEO Peter Sandiford has been sharing that vision for a few years now. Nimsoft, a CA Technologies company, has been helping MSPs with VBlock and converged data center management. And Boundry CEO Gary Read, formerly of Nimsoft, is building out an application monitoring platform for public and private cloud systems.

Meanwhile, OpenStack is emerging as an open source platform for public clouds and private clouds. Some pundits think OpenStack will become the Linux of cloud computing, providing a free or low-cost foundation upon which to deploy applications.

That potential trend has caught ZOHO President Raj Sabhlok's attention. Remember, Sabhlok is the rare executive who's running both a managed services software business (ManageEngine) and a massive SaaS business (Zoho competes with Google Apps and others). It's safe to say he sees the line between on-premises and cloud management fading away -- or disappearing completely.

Companies such as Rackspace already run their clouds on OpenStack. But this is also a private cloud story. Plenty of Global 2000 companies are taking a close look at OpenStack for private cloud deployments. In theory, that means it will be easier to move applications between public and private clouds.

During a call today, Sabhlok and I spoke a bit about the past, present and future of OpenStack. While I don't have any firm news to share right now, it's safe to say Sabhlok is giving OpenStack a really close look. If I had to guess, that means MSPs have about 18 months (or less) to figure out their own OpenStack management strategies -- assuming OpenStack matures as quickly as some folks believe it will.

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