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What challenges are Managed Service Providers facing today?
We talk about Managed Service Providers all the time. The biggest problem MSPs have is dealing with Digital Service Transformation. There’s a promise of greater efficiency and cost-benefit with new technologies such as software-defined structures and cloud. The number one thing that they have to struggle with right now is how they will bridge their customers into those environments.
Hybrid environments are ‘exhibit A’ and they’re here right now. In fact, some of them may never go away. MSPs should never choose a religion, such as all cloud or all datacenter. If it has to be hybrid, it’s usually for a good reason. Maybe it’s security, flexibility or cost containment – the cloud is not always cost effective for certain applications. What MSPs should focus on is how to continue to assure service and measure service availability to their enterprise IT business units during transformation.
Our service models allow service assurance architects and providers to use features such as business impact monitoring. You can rapidly add service models into your service assurance strategy and mix and match the best sources of telemetry that give you insight into availability or health of what you’re monitoring – and deliver it as a business outcome. Whether it’s on-prem, hybrid or cloud.
MSPs need to address this challenge because at the end of the day it’s about the perception of the end users of the business. They have to manage their expectations. Business and digital transformation projects are going on across IT shops everywhere. There are solutions that focus on end-user experience and they are worthwhile to employ in business IT. Those are the people that typically create the applications. The MSP’s goal should be to collaborate their management and monitoring data to align with APM and end-user experience applications. Our aim is to provide that bridge.
How are MSPs and their enterprise customers managing the complexity?
It’s not easy, but we’re working to make it easier. Different organizations have different capabilities in managing complexity. We have two customers – MSPs and their end customers. Our primary customer is the MSP, so we always put ourselves in their shoes. And we look at their end clients as our clients because we build solutions that make it easier for the MSPs to service their own clients. So, to answer your question, we need to talk about two sets of complexities. How MSPs manage their own complexities is different than how they manage their customers’ complexities.
For their customers’ complexities, we feel that being able to express service models for business systems is an important way for them to evolve and communicate more effectively between their MSP providers and their internal business IT teams that own the applications.
And we understand that monitoring and surveillance are in some cases considered overhead. But with these new software-defined infrastructure options coming to market, you have more complexity. And that adds time and cost to troubleshooting if you are not properly caring for them or managing them properly.
Does this evolution present a business opportunity for MSPs?
Absolutely. We believe that it’s an opportunity for MSPs to actually generate more revenue. When businesses go through technology transformations of any kind, it usually starts off slow until they can measure progress and assure the quality of experience. By focusing on delivering monitoring that is based on their business outcomes, we can help accelerate those transformations and unlock revenue that the MSPs – and systems integrators – can earn. This helps them to complete those transformations and manage the steady state afterward. Giving their end customers real-time visibility is necessary for them to feel comfortable.
I call this concept “service vernacular.” This is where the MSP or IT operations owners align their real-time monitoring to express business outcomes in the way in which the business they serve thinks about business applications and user communities. This also helps to reduce overall costs for the end customer. If the end customer has the internal ability to take advantage of the MSP’s real-time monitoring platform, then there is no need for them to maintain their own. It also improves the working relationship between the MSP and the customer’s IT staff, because they are working off the same data.
You may say, well, that’s expensive to customize the monitoring for each MSP client so that it is tuned for their specific business’ service vernacular. We addressed this challenge by delivering easy-to-implement service topologies and reducing operating overhead. We allow you to centrally deploy and administer those monitoring structures through our cloud-based Service Infrastructure Management Layer technology.
We don’t care if it’s cloud or data center, as long as it’s centrally managed and provisioned. Having a service assurance strategy – that’s what’s important.
What technology trends are impacting their daily lives?
Software-defined networking has emerged as an important one. It’s supposed to deliver on the promise of zero-touch provisioning, where you can create virtual network functions and deliver them in an orchestrated manner in what the industry is starting to call “service chains.” If I want firewall function, if I want an acceleration function, if I want a routing function at the edge that can leverage different provider paths, I can do it with SDN. And I can have that provisioned on commercial, off-the-shelf hardware that communications service providers are calling “white boxes.
But, of course, SDNs increase complexity. Where we had discrete functions being served by discrete pieces of equipment, now we have layers of infrastructure within the white box that make troubleshooting harder. So, in some ways, it makes the delivery of services easier by reducing hardware footprints in branch closets, but in other ways, it makes troubleshooting harder because of the new interdependencies and co-dependencies. We are working closely with our customers on developing solutions that make SDNs more efficient.
Thank you, Edmond! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Edmond Baydian is the Chief Strategy Officer of Optanix.
Optanix is the leader in intelligent business service assurance. The Optanix Platform delivers predictive and proactive performance and availability management across hybrid infrastructures, with a focus on real-time communications use-cases. It is available as a standalone solution or as the engine behind Optanix’s managed service offerings.