Climbing From Managed Services to SaaS Clouds
The move from managed service provider to software as a service (SaaS) can seem intimidating, but the barriers to market entry continue to fall. Each week, yet another company introduces a SaaS framework that you can plug your managed services business into.
Whether it's Amazon.com's Simple Storage Service (S3) or Jamcracker's expanding Service Delivery Network, MSPs have a growing list of cloud-oriented platforms from which to choose. The continued reinvention of Jamcracker is of particular interest to me. Here's why.
Nearly a decade ago, Jamcracker was among the hot software startups leading the dot-com boom. But when the boom went bust, dozens of Jamcracker rivals disappeared forever. But gradually, Jamcracker has reinvented itself for the SaaS age.
I'm not suggesting that Jamcracker now has a hit on its hands — admittedly, I need to spend more time researching the company — but Jamcracker's continued SaaS efforts may warrant some attention from MSPs.
On the upside, partner-driven SaaS networks from Jamcracker and other vendors typically eliminate or minimize start-up costs. (It's similar to the Master MSP business model we outlined for readers in March 2008.) And they also allow your business to leverage a pre-built software ecosystem, where each new software component potentially makes the overall SaaS community stronger. More than 100 applications and services are now available on Jamcracker's SaaS network, the company says.
Building on that theme, Jamcracker today introduced the Jamcracker Integration Toolkit (JIT), which allows SaaS vendors (and MSPs, naturally) to plug their applications into the Jamcracker Services Delivery Network (JSDN). Early adopters include Averiware, Brainshark, LongJump, RHUB, Topia Technology, and XOffice International, according to Jamcracker.
The JSDN network has several other potential benefits for MSPs and SaaS providers. In particular, the system allows participants to leverage Jamcracker's ecommerce WebStores, billing, provisioning, customer support, helpdesk, and administrative services. For more info on the toolkit, check out http://www.jamcracker.com/partners.
Of course, hitching your wagon to a third-party SaaS cloud also comes with some risks. If the cloud goes dark, so potentially does your business. And you should also make sure that the cloud provider uses open standards (XML, etc.) and well-documented tools that help you avoid vendor lock-in.
Also, make sure you can brand the cloud services as your own. At the end of the day, you're in business to build your corporate assets — not a partner's assets.