What an interesting time to be an MSP. Cloud computing in 2011 is like a dominant new predator wading into a well-established food chain at the top. The major Platform-as-a-Service providers have kicked off a cycle of rapid adaptation in the rest of the technology value chain. MSPs of all sizes, shapes and market segments are reconsidering their channel alignments, redesigning their business models, and fast-tracking the development of complementary software and service offerings. Some are building cloud integration practices. Some are specializing in application development for cloud deployment. Some are stacking new services of their own on others already running in the cloud.
Some MSPs are choosing to host their new services on the platforms of their partners, but most are opting to continue building out their own infrastructures as a key element of their own value proposition. If you are part of this latter group, your IT infrastructure is taking on a functional role in the space between your enterprise clientele and those cloud-based service platforms, exposing it to highly dynamic workloads. To satisfy service level agreements, it must inevitably take on the elastic properties of the cloud itself. It takes a cloud to integrate with a cloud.
Of course very few pockets are as deep as those at Amazon or Google. Most MSPs must maximize the capacity and flexibility of more modest facilities. The logical starting point is to build your own private clouds—assembling them in increments. Add something new to something older, use abstraction and virtualization to make an apparently homogeneous resource pool out of a typically heterogeneous reality.
But virtualization, while essential, is not sufficient by itself. Successful MSPs need the intelligence to manage workloads dynamically across the virtual and physical infrastructure, in a way that responds automatically to changing demand while adhering to the policies and maintaining guaranteed service levels.
Four Steps to SuccessSuccess in this ultra-competitive MSP landscape requires four essential capabilities:
- The ability to build scalable, reliable business services based on intelligent workloads that are portable and have identity, security and management services integrated with the application.
- The ability to ensure the right levels of data protection and regulatory compliance while controlling access across multiple computing environments.
- The ability to manage, move and automatically scale workloads within and across all computing environments, to optimize workload execution and utilization of IT assets.
- The ability to measure workload performance, document resource utilization and monitor security events. To generate a real-time, identity-aware view of the IT infrastructure.
Dan Dufault is global director of partner marketing at Novell. Guest blogs such as this one are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship.