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MSP to CSP: Can Zenith Infotech TigerCloud Deliver IaaS?

Can small managed services providers (MSP) become cloud services providers (CSPs) that compete with Amazon, Rackspace and Windows Azure? Zenith Infotech's TigerCloud effort offers some potential answers.

May 29, 2013

3 Min Read
Zenith Infotech says TigerCloud allows MSPs and CSPs to offer IaaS public and private clouds to small business customers
Zenith Infotech says TigerCloud allows MSPs and CSPs to offer IaaS public and private clouds to small business customers

By samdizzy

Zenith Infotech this morning described its TigerCloud offerings to a small group of VARs and MSPs on Long Island. The company claims TigerCloud can transform an MSP (managed services provider) into a CSP (cloud services provider) — capable of competing vs. Amazon Web Services, Rackspace (RAX) and Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Azure cloud.

Those are lofty claims. But what exactly "is" TigerCloud? And how might it fit into an MSP's business? Zenith Infotech's Rajeev Laghate and Michael Nobers offered an overview during this morning's gathering. Here are some key takeaways based on my own observations:

What exectly is TigerCloud?: Definitions will certainly vary. At a high-level I consider it a custom hardware/software solution that spans servers, storage and virtualization. In a way it sounds like a small business edition of VCE — converged infrastructure upon which MSPs and CSPs can virtualize, run and protect their customers' businesses.

Where do MSPs and CSPs deploy TigerCloud?: There are at least four deployment scenarios…

  • On-premises at the customer site, managed remotely by the MSP/CSP.

  • In the MSP/CSP's own data center or offices.

  • In a third-party co-location center, but managed and maintained by the MSP/CSP.

  • In Zenith Infotech's data center, but again managed and maintained by the MSP/CSP.

What applications can MSPs and CSPs potentially deploy and manage for end-customers on TigerCloud?: It's a pretty lengthy list. During this morning's meeting a range of scenarios popped up…

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), either as a private or public cloud for customers.

  • Server virtualization and consolidation, with support for Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware.

  • Desktop as a Service/Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, though the MSP/CSP would need to manage the service provider licensing agreements with Microsoft and other software companies.

  • BYOD management, with the MSP/CSP carefully controlling which centralized applications customers can access from their mobile devices.

  • SaaS applications like hosted Exchange, SharePoint, etc.

  • Dev/Test scenarios.

  • Storage as a Service.

  • Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR)/Business Continuity. Data snapshots can be replicated from one TigerCloud system to another every 15 minutes. If the primary TigerCloud system or office goes dark, the MSP/CSP can promote the remote backup system's virtual machines into primary operation in about 30 minutes or less. That's not instant failover nor 100 percent real-time replication. Assuming the technology works as advertised, it sounds like "good enough" protection for the vast majority of businesses that can't typically afford five-nines enterprise-class protection.

  • Migrations from Windows Small Business Server, which Microsoft killed in 2012.

Do MSPs Really Want to Build Their Own Clouds?: This has been a central question on Talkin' Cloud and our sister site, MSPmentor. I've argued that most MSPs do not want to be in the data center business going forward. But TigerCloud seems to shift the discussion quite a bit. Assuming it works as advertised, the MSP doesn't have to build out a grand data center to leverage this technology. Rather, TigerCloud can run on-premises or in third-party co-location centers.

What's the Pricing and Profit Model?: MSPs and CSPs can purchase an entire TigerCloud system the traditional way (pay up front) or using a subscription model (pay as a you go).

Zenith Infotech demonstrated a pricing tool this morning that helps MSPs and CSPs to calculate their costs for TigerCloud and related services. Armed with that information and profitability goals, the MSP or CSP can then figure out end-customer target pricing.

The pricing tool is proprietary to Zenith Infotech for now, but it sounds like the tool could be generally available to Zenith Infotech's channel partners within the next few weeks or months.

Side note: During this morning's meeting, Zenith Infotech's ongoing effort to resolve a 2011 bond default with debt holders did not come up. The meeting was purely about technology — and how MSPs can potentially become CSPs rather than cloud agents that ultimately send business to Microsoft, Rackspace and Amazon.

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