MSPintegrations: Managed Services Meet Amazon Cloud

Each time MSPmentor blogs about Amazon Web Services (AWS), I hear from readers who want practical, real-world examples of AWS in action. The big question: How can MSPs potentially leverage Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)? The answer: Check out what Travis Austin is working on over at MSPintegrations.

During the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2010 (WPC10), Austin pulled me aside and started talking cloud. As you may recall, MSPintegrations develops software that links multiple MSP tools together. One example is Email2AT, a cloud-based service that allows Autotask customers to communicate with their customers via email all from within the Autotask system, and all communications are logged against tickets, Austin says. "This prevents lost messages and assures that all members of a support team are aware of customer communication," he adds.

Another example is Kaseya2AT, an MSPintegrations connector that converts Kaseya tickets and alerts into Autotask tickets. "As part of this, Autotask contractually obligated us to a high-availability setup in order to assure a good experience for our mutual customers," Travis says.

Turning to Amazon's Cloud

So why does MSPintegrations need Amazon's cloud? "We built Email2AT from the beginning with an understanding that we had to be quickly scalable and very nimble," Austin says. "We've processed over a million emails and we have several millions rows in our databases, and we're growing exponentially. We needed more processing power and we need it fast -- so we turned to Amazon S3 and EC2."

Specifically, MSPintegrations uses Amazon Web Services in the following ways:
  • S3 to store the static write-once data related to the message processing and to reduce the load on our database servers.
  • EC2 instances to parse and process inbound messages.
  • As load increases, MSPintegrations can spin up more EC2 instances, and when it decreases, the company reduces the number of instances.

Hybrid: Blending On-premises with the Cloud

MSPintegrations still houses servers in its Los Angeles datacenter, and a significant amount of the processing is completed on the company's own servers. "But, with EC2 available, we have geographic redundancy, and we have the ability to scale - and scale very quickly," says Austin.

Looking ahead, MSPintegrations plans to move to a new physical datacenter in the next few months. "This is a VERY simple process, though, since we can simply spin up a few more EC2 instances, and then shut down our datacenter," Austin says. "In fact, if we wanted to, we could shut down the datacenter and leave it off. EC2 can handle everything."

Keeping Amazon In Perspective

MSPintegrations isn't alone. I'm hearing from a growing number of MSPs and solutions providers that are launching applications in Amazon's cloud. Two additional examples include Levementum (a SugarCRM specialist) and OpenBI (a business intelligence application integrator).

Still, not everyone is having success in Amazon's cloud. Kaseya originally planned to host its SaaS tools in Amazon's cloud, but service level agreement (SLA) issues forced Kaseya to use its own data centers as well as Rackspace data centers, MSPmentor has heard.

Meanwhile, some MSPs are struggling to determine which public clouds offer the best performance. Eager to address that challenge, Web Hosting Talk and The Planet together launched Bench the Cloud, a tool that allows customers and service providers to test various third-party cloud performance.

Will more MSPs and MSP software providers follow Travis Austin into Amazon's cloud? We'll be watching.

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