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February 3, 2021
By Farrah Kashef
The past year was fraught with challenges that were anchored by the global health situation. It’s clear that while the people the world over sheltered in place, avoiding physical interactions with friends, colleagues and loved ones, our lifeline was the internet and its ability to enable social, educational and business through the digital sphere. According to a research report, “The Lockdown Effect: Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Internet Traffic,” the internet defied the pandemic, illustrating monumental traffic growth in 2020 — and its resilience in handling even more of a surge in growth and demand than predicted. This is great news, and a beacon of opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs), who are adapting, shifting, and enhancing cloud access for their clients.
What we learned from 2020 is that MSPs had to act quickly and innovate solutions to overcome a number of issues to ensure businesses could remain always on and always available for employees and customers alike. Too many enterprises were relying on network designs that were static rather than flexible, and therefore were challenged to adapt in response to immense shifts such as distributed data routing, which is required to support a remote workforce. Layer in issues of security, inadequate bandwidth at the edge and increased traffic accessing cloud, and traditional cloud and hosting service providers were challenged to help their customers adapt quickly.
The shift to work from home altered how data traffic is exchanged. Overnight, employees became reliant on video conferencing applications in an effort to recreate the in-person, in-office experience. This created challenges that only a solid, last-mile access connection with high bandwidth internet capabilities could solve. Beyond video and collaboration, reliable cloud connectivity was and still is a key pain point enterprises are working to solve, particularly at the edge.
Connectivity is a challenge for successful enterprise cloud solutions, particularly with the multiple private and public cloud infrastructure solutions being used today. Application performance and availability from anywhere, let alone costs, are the top points of frustration. MSPs tend to be a core partner in solving these problems. What makes an effective MSP are extensive relationships with network operators to ensure they can identify, design and price best-available services between users, data center and cloud. Keep in mind, just finding a connectivity service alone doesn’t solve for additional concerns such as security, reliability, latency and performance.
A new MSP model is emerging: the hybrid MSP. Hybrid MSPs own and operate their own network, achieving reach through the interconnection with global, regional and metro providers, fortifying edge-to-edge capabilities.
A key enabler of the hybrid MSP is automation technology, never more in demand than in 2020, when expedited provisioning times were in high demand. Hybrid MSPs that adopted software-defined networking (SDN) to streamline and unify design, pricing, ordering, provisioning, invoicing, monitoring and management capabilities are the most adept at accommodating the …
… varied and vast needs of enterprises — no matter what end points they need to connect and route data between.
In 2020, I observed unprecedented growth in internet and SaaS use. The entrepreneurial MSPs enhanced their service capabilities and reach to capture the deluge of requests from customers. Platforms were key to success, and hybrid MSPs provided customers and partners with access to online quote, order and provision platforms to scale cloud connections in hours instead of weeks. MSPs with this capability are able to rapidly turn around service quotes rather than taking weeks to make the estimate. They also provide a complete end-to-edge network implementation streamlining virtual cloud services, enabling customers to scale quickly.
As we look ahead, the marriage of platform enablement with SDN capabilities, edge-to-edge, will all be important to solve and improve upon. The popularity of the hybrid MSP will continue to evolve as MSPs realize the best way to deliver cloud performance is with integrated connectivity services.
The challenge is avoiding the delay and cost of building and operating a portfolio of network services. With no time to build new services and products, MSPs are turning to other MSPs to fill portfolio gaps — not just in services but for the infrastructure, platforms and experienced operations teams that enable a hybrid MSP to solve for client problems without delays. With rapidly evolving solutions still required and enterprise network evolutions not yet complete, MSPs benefit by connecting with an integrated global network for private services and leveraging intelligent automated platforms that streamline design, including cloud and internet access, from end to end for access to secure corporate data for anyone, anywhere.
A 20-year technology executive, Farrah Kashef is co-founder and executive vice president of strategic partners at Unitas Global. She is responsible for identifying and managing relationships with global real estate and data center providers that seek to integrate real estate strategies and networking solutions with technology, and has helped implement the company’s go-to-market strategy. Kashef previously worked at Mzima Networks and also held senior sales and management roles at GTT, Arbinet and NTT-Verio. An active member of the Alliance of Channel Women and the Women in Women’s Tech Forum (WTF), she is passionate about women achieving recognition in the business world. You may follow her on LinkedIn or @UnitasGlobal on Twitter.
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