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November 1, 2017
Avoiding the burden of server management is one frequent reason for moving workloads to the cloud.
Yet the fact is that many cloud environments still require a fair degree of management — a fact organizations tend to overlook.
This creates an opportunity for MSPs.
Setting up and managing physical servers is a lot of work.
This is a primary reason why organizations move to the cloud.
In the cloud, users don’t have to set up the physical servers that host applications or data.
Nor is it users’ responsibility to keep the servers up and running.
Failing hard disks, problems with the host operating system and so on are managed by the cloud provider.
Why Cloud Servers are Not Management-Free
Yet it’s a big mistake to act as if the cloud relieves organizations of server maintenance.
Unless you adopt a fully managed cloud service, in most cases users are responsible for installing, configuring and managing the virtual servers that they run in the cloud.
Take AWS’s EC2 service, for example. An EC2 instance saves users the hassle of setting up a physical server.
But they still have to install a virtual server on EC2, then monitor and manage it.
True, launching an EC2 server is easier in some respects because you can work from a preconfigured image that can be started in a few clicks.
But in most cases you still need to customize your EC2 instance by changing configuration variables, adding software packages and so on.
Plus, although AWS provides some basic monitoring features for EC2 via CloudWatch, making use of the metrics that AWS offers is the responsibility of users.
So is ensuring that EC2 instances remain secure.
In short, AWS does not handle most of the work required to keep a virtual server running smoothly and securely. It provides the infrastructure, but that is about it.
AWS EC2 is just an example. Most public cloud services function in a similar way.
Fully Managed Cloud Services
The lack of fully managed services on most public clouds — and the failure of some organizations to appreciate the considerable maintenance burden that cloud servers impose on them — creates an opportunity for MSPs.
MSPs should educate customers and potential customers about the realities of virtual cloud servers and the management responsibility they entail.
MSPs should then offer full management services for those cloud environments.
The result is a win-win situation.
MSPs get an opportunity to add value through managed services without having to set up physical infrastructure, since the cloud host provides that.
Meanwhile, customers get a truly management-free experience for their software environments because MSPs cover the management tasks that cloud providers don’t.
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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