Cloud management

Managed hosting and cloud computing service provider, Logicworks published a blog recently on why cloud MSPs are software companies. We asked our CTO Alex Bligh and VP of Product Marco Meinardi to comment on it. Here is Alex Bligh’s comments.

Jason Deck, vice president of strategic development, wrote:

“When your infrastructure is code, the art of developing great software applications and building great infrastructure systems start to look similar…

…The scripts that spin up a server (instance) or configure a network can be standardized, modified over time, and reused. These scripts are essentially software applications that build infrastructure and are maintained much like a piece of software…

…Providers that build and manage cloud infrastructure for clients accumulate entire libraries of these scripts. These libraries are a cloud MSP’s core intellectual property, and what differentiates one MSP from another. And this software is a main reason why enterprises need MSPs in the first place.”

The blog then goes on to discuss cloud automation and cloud orchestration as a missing key element on many cloud projects. Deck writes, “Unfortunately, cloud orchestration software is not yet mature. MSPs are the only vendors that have developed true cloud orchestration software through a combination of custom programming and 3rd party APIs.”

While Deck clearly thought this blog post through, and at Flexiant, we are huge supporters of getting MSPs to the cloud, there are a few points I’d like to comment on as I don’t entirely agree with this position.

  1. MSPs (and telecom operators) need to differentiate in the cloud – here I agree. Logicworks argues that the library of scripts is what does enables MSPs to do this and why enterprises need MSPs. However, the problem here is that writing software is not often the core skill of the MSP; rather the MSP’s core skill is running a managed services business. I believe this is where MSPs need to let a vendor write flexible software. This can then be used to arm MSPs with the ability to configure it based on their business, they can in turn extend the platform, innovate and differentiate in a crowded market. The major benefits are efficiency (the software is only written once), saving time getting to market, and the ability to extend the platform based on their business needs, when those business needs arise, so they can differentiate. MSPs should be in the cloud market, not the software market. They should also concentrating on their own customer requirements, instead of reinventing the wheel developing software that others have produced before.
  1. In any application there will be parts that run ‘above’ the cloud layer – be it IaaS, PaaS, etc. It is therefore important that the provider of cloud orchestration software offers appropriate APIs to enable this software to work. But who consumes those APIs? Logicworks assumes this should be the MSP. However, often the MSPs’ own clients (or possibly its other contractors) will want to consume the API as they will be the ones writing the software their customer uses. This is often the core IP of the client, not the core IP of the MSP, and the client will not want it to be made available to other customers of the MSP which may be competitors.
  1. The blog makes the case that an extensive library of scripts is necessary to get applications up and running from scratch. If that’s the case, there’s either something wrong with the MSPs IaaS orchestration or the MSP requires another layer of application orchestration to simplify matters. These products already exist. Why should the MSP write another?
  1. Deck concludes his blog by writing, “Cloud MSPs will become software companies as well as curators of a dizzyingly complex software marketplace, and help enterprises put the latest cloud innovations to work.” I agree that cloud MSPs have a huge opportunity to be trusted customer advisors to help them sift through the complexity of infrastructure and other cloud vendors. However, becoming a software company is not the answer. Instead, MSPs need to make use of mature cloud orchestration solutions as well as technology that easily gives them and their customers access to multi-clouds for the provisioning of applications and portability of applications across different clouds based on business requirements.

Deck, we hope you read this and get in touch. We’d love to talk this through with you in more detail and show you why we believe Flexiant Cloud Orchestrator and Flexiant Concerto are the tools MSPs need today to enable extensibility, innovation and differentiation.

What do you think? Leave your comments here.


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