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Posts Tagged ‘IaaS’

Is your company MSP material?

March 18, 2015 Comments off

Creating a PartnershipIf you think that your company has what it takes to become a managed service provider (MSP), then you should consider it as a business growth option. Not only can you generate recurring revenue from getting involved in the MSP channel and the “As a Service” business model, but you can also grow your business toward the future. “Remain flexible” and “create strategic partnerships that benefit you and your customers” are the best advice tidbits gleaned from listening to experienced MSP CXOs.

Although not always the case, most businesses that transition into the MSP business do so because they already offer direct managed services to their customers. And those who already provide a service are considering or are working toward providing more services, mostly as a result of customer needs. Many MSP customers or potential MSP customers all report the same three primary pain points:

  • A desire to offload infrastructure management
  • A need to maintain a predictable technology budget
  • A requirement to respond quickly to changing business needs

A managed service provider (MSP) delivers network, application, system and e-management services across a network to multiple enterprises, using a “pay as you go” pricing model. A “pure play” MSP focuses on management services as its core offering. In addition, the MSP market includes offerings from other providers — including application service providers (ASPs), Web hosting companies and network service providers (NSPs) — that supplement their traditional offerings with management services.

A potential MSP needs to be mindful of two specific fears that businesses have when considering offloading their support to a third party: control–or lack thereof and response time. Anyone who’s ever dealt with third party vendors can testify that response is often lackluster and sometimes downright inexcusable.

To alleviate those fears, you have to ask yourself two questions before you decide to become an MSP:

Does your staff possess the desire and ability to respond quickly to customer needs?

Do you plan to allow the customer to exert a moderate amount of control over his or her environment?

If you can’t answer a confident “Yes” to both questions, you need to reconsider your choice to become an MSP.

Having stated that, you can train and motivate your employees and you can make the decision to allow the customer a moderate amount of control. The company that you choose as your upstream partner has a lot to do with how successful you’ll be, so choose carefully and thoughtfully.

You should also consider how you’re going to meet service level agreements (SLAs) with your customers. Regardless of what your contracts state, customers expect 100 percent availability from you. To meet those expectations and SLAs, you have to purchase reliable hardware and software, you have to provide outstanding customer service, you have to backup customer data, and you have to provide monitoring and alerting services. If you fail to provide any one of those major cornerstone services to your customers, your business will likely also fail. Remember the number one rule of customer feedback: If you make a customer happy, that customer might tell one other person, but if you make a customer unhappy, that customer will tell everyone. And these days with rating services, online feedback forums, and social media, your business is only a few negative tweets or one star reviews away from failure.

In the MSP business, customers assume that you have excellent, redundant, unbreakable systems underlying your services, but what they’re really after is a competitive price point and top notch customer service. They also want a fair amount of control over their leased infrastructure. What’s that old saying? Build a better MouSetraP and the world will be a path to your door. Count on it.

If you’re looking to enter the MSP channel and you’re also looking for a partner, check out what IBM can do for you as your upstream partner. IBM supports MSPs with training, technical support, marketing resources, sales resources, and the finest available hardware. Find out how you and IBM can accelerate your business through a valuable strategic partnership.

IBM_logoThis post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Cloud is Reshaping the World of Business for SMBs

June 29, 2014 Comments off

Cloud: Reshaping the World of BusinessOn Thursday, June 26, I participated in an hour-long IBM Business Insider Spreecast titled, “Cloud: Reshaping the World of Business,” where host Paul Gillin led the panel through a series of questions and thought points concerning Cloud and small to medium-sized businesses. There was also an associated Twitter Chat that used hashtag, #SMB4Cloud, that I participated in during the event. Though you can’t attend the live event now, you can click the link above and connect to the Spreecast and gain insight into the discussion that we had.

There were a few major highlights that sprang from the panel and participants. First, is the concept that mature businesses move slower to adopt new technologies than their newer counterparts do. Startups are especially onboard with new technologies, such as cloud computing, cloud storage, and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Startups don’t always have the capital to purchase infrastructure and data center space that can run into the millions of dollars for the kind of computing power required to run high capacity applications, to store big data, to maintain a potentially huge number of customers, to supply adequate bandwidth, and to provide 24×7 service uptimes.

Startups have to leverage cloud computing, IaaS, and new technologies in order to get into the market and compete effectively against established businesses.

Second, cloud computing allows companies, at any stage of development, to get to market faster than is possible with traditional computing infrastructure. Provisioning times with IaaS is measured in minutes rather than in weeks or in months.

Third, using a cloud provider or managed service provider (MSP) allows a company to use expertise that might not be available within the company. MSPs also allows companies to leverage these skills that might be out of their salary range. SMBs can effectively compete on a scale and at a speed that wasn’t possible just a few years ago. Only large companies could move infrastructure, people, and skills fast enough and on a large enough scale to take on significant contracts. Cloud computing has opened up new possibilities and expanded business opportunities for SMBs.

Fourth, cloud computing offers a high level of simplicity for SMBs. There are services available that are very easy to use. If the business doesn’t require a lot of customization or specialized services, then cloud usage can be as simple as a few mouse clicks, which allows SMBs to use current employee skillsets to step into cloud services without the complexity.

Finally, the cloud transforms IT people into business people. Fixing computers and troubleshooting problems now shifts to a provider. IT people are now becoming more focused on business outcomes, customer satisfaction, and business growth rather than day-to-day break/fix and operational objectives of running an IT shop.

Panelists:

Paul Gillin – Paul Gillin Communications, Host.
John Mason – General Manager, Midmarket at IBM.
Laurie McCabe – Co-founder and Partner, The SBM Group.
Subbu Balakrishnan – CTO and Co-founder, Good.co.

One of the panelists noted that, “Cloud works for DIY and “Do It For Me” businesses alike.”

That statement covers the gamut of what cloud computing can do for businesses at whatever comfort or expertise level they have at their disposal. Although it’s difficult for some IT people, even CIOs, to see is that if your company isn’t an IT company, then there’s no reason to be in the IT business. Cloud makes it possible to be in the business you’re in, but have the computing power you need to run your business without becoming an IT business.

The conclusions from the Spreecast and the Twitter Chat can be summarized as the following:

  • Established businesses must embrace cloud computing to remain relevant
  • Startups and young businesses use new technologies and adapt faster
  • Cloud computing enables a faster startup and faster presence for new services
  • Cloud computing is transforming IT from a service to a business quality organization
  • IaaS significantly shortens infrastructure provisioning times
  • Cloud computing allows businesses to focus on business rather than on IT

Cloud computing, for some, is quite controversial, but few would argue that cloud isn’t transformative and a paradigm shift from business as usual. Businesses that want to remain relevant and those that want to become agile, or even virtual, should examine the possibilities of what cloud can offer them.

If you’re considering cloud computing for your business, check out IBM’s Cloud Computing Marketplace.
IBM_logoThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Mid-market Business Cloud Transition Pain Points (Podcast)

April 25, 2012 Comments off

IBM’s Vice President of Global Mid-market Sales, Mike McClurg, and I discuss IBM’s role in transitioning mid-sized businesses into virtualized infrastructures and cloud-based technologies. We discuss IaaS, SaaS and pain points associated with the shift to hosted solutions. 21 minutes. MP3 format.

IBM_MidMarket_Cloud_Discussion_with_MikeMcClurg_Apr_2012

IBM for Midsize Business

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Why You Need Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

January 7, 2012 1 comment

Infrastructure as a Service is that part of cloud computing that allows you to lease and manage computing infrastructure for your business needs. Computing infrastructure includes virtual machines (VMs), operating systems, middleware, runtime components, network, storage, data and applications. Cloud computing vendors provide the necessary underlying physical hardware (servers, network, storage) that they own and manage transparently in the background. The two worlds have little crossover. The cloud vendor and customer have a non-intrusive relationship with one another just as you currently do with your web hosting provider. They’re there when you need help but their direct involvement in your business is zero.

The cloud vendor also supplies you with a management interface in which you work with your infrastructure. You’re responsible for license management for your operating systems and software. You pay for compute resources per CPU, per hour, per gigabyte of bandwidth, per gigabyte of storage or a combination.

The Three Faces of IaaS

IaaS isn’t as simple as a single offering but the boundaries between types are well-drawn. First, you have the Private Cloud. Private IaaS is exactly what you think it is—a dedicated, private infrastructure. Think of your own data center setup as a Private Cloud IaaS. Of course, unless you have cloud infrastructure (virtualization, storage, extreme redundancy, etc.), it isn’t officially a cloud but you get the idea.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Public Cloud. A Public Cloud is a 100 percent hosted solution. You own no hardware. It is the Public Cloud that is the focus of this article.
If you combine the two cloud concepts, you have what’s known as a Hybrid Cloud. A Hybrid Cloud can be any percentage mixture of Private and Public infrastructures for your company. Most companies will evolve into this type of cloud from a traditional, private hardware infrastructure to a cloud-based one.

A Hybrid Cloud is the solution that cloud vendors recommend to their customers who’ve grown their own data centers and that are comfortable with that model. Mix your Private Cloud with the Public Cloud for a solid and complete solution for you and your customers. A Hybrid Cloud mixes the security and control of a traditional data center with hosted cloud infrastructure. Typically, companies will transition their disaster recovery efforts to the Public Cloud while retaining production operations in-house in a Private Cloud.

Industry experts view Hybrid Clouds as a transitional step to a full Private Cloud. They see this process as a stepwise migration. As leases and service contracts expire, companies will move their computing workloads from private data center architecture and Private Clouds to virtualized architecture in the Public Cloud.

Analysts predict that by the end of 2012, as many as 20% of businesses will exist completely in the Public Cloud.

Cost Savings But Not Where You Think

Cost tops the advantages of IaaS cloud computing. To purchase the same amount of physical computing power, to manage that computing power and to house that computing power costs many times more than bulk pricing from a cloud vendor. IaaS is basically hardware outsourcing. You don’t own the hardware. You don’t manage the hardware. You use the hardware but its care and feeding are not your problem.

Put whatever moniker on cloud computing’s IaaS that you want but it’s really no different than what you probably do now in your current data center. Unless you own your data center, pay its staff, maintain the facility and physically service your own hardware, then you’re already using hardware (infrastructure) as a service. The primary difference in a standard data center space lease and IaaS is that you don’t have to deal with any hardware.

IaaS frees you from purchasing or leasing hardware, having it shipped to the data center, paying someone to deploy it into a rack, paying for that rack space, managing the hardware throughout its life cycle and taking care of its disposal. That’s why traditional data center infrastructure management is expensive. You have to pay for the hardware, you have to pay for maintenance, you have to pay for management and you have to pay for the business services that required all of this expense in the first place.

On the other side of the argument, cloud opponents state that your TCO is no lower with IaaS than with traditional data center service. This might be true from a pure hardware point-of-view. After all, the IaaS vendor has to pay for the data center infrastructure and pass his costs on to you. However, the savings is in the form of labor costs.

Count the number of full-time employees (FTEs) you have on hand right now to manage your infrastructure. Now, count the number of FTEs you’ll require by not managing any hardware. Is there a significant difference between the two numbers? Add up the total cost of those FTEs who you won’t need anymore and multiply that number by three years (standard hardware lease length). That number is your savings.

Since your new virtual infrastructure comes with online management tools for creating new servers, installing operating systems, presenting storage and configuring network, you’ll need fewer FTEs to handle the job.

Lower Entry Barriers and Rapid Innovation

IaaS also lowers the financial and logistical barriers for startup businesses to enter the market and push their products and services to customers in a fraction of the standard timeframe. The IaaS model allows startups to start small and grow to any size on the pay-as-you-go plan. There’s not a huge outlay of capital on hardware and FTEs that traditionally built businesses have experienced.

Another advantage of IaaS is rapid innovation. For example, if you have an idea for a new service today, you could spin up a virtual test infrastructure for a few hundred dollars, test your service, demo your service and deploy a working business model in a matter of days instead of months. In a time when windows of opportunity are often very small, IaaS makes sense for who need a quick service build-out to show investors or potential customers.

Embrace the Elastic and Mobile Cloud

IaaS also makes your company mobile, elastic and global. You can manage your systems from anywhere, you can shrink and grow your computing infrastructure as needed and you can keep your global customers happy with zero downtime. And, since you’re not tied to a server room or data center, your office location is irrelevant. You can work from home and your employees can be spread across the globe.

Have you ever had to move systems, network and storage from one location to another? If you have, you know about expense, outage and failure. Most cloud vendors maintain geographically disparate data center locations to ensure zero downtime for your infrastructure. Sure, there’s an additional cost for the service but how much is your current disaster recovery solution costing you?

Summary

You need IaaS because you need mobility, agility, stability, availability, elasticity and frugality in your business. You can save money. You can beat the competition to market. And, you can do it with the peace of mind that someone else is minding the hardware foundation under your business.

Where to Go from Here

If you’re considering moving to an IaaS solution or you’re part of a startup, contact a cloud vendor and discuss your needs. Remember that not all cloud vendors can or will give you good advice. Look for experience, longevity, availability, customer service and customer satisfaction in your quest to migrate to the cloud. Remember that your partnership with a cloud vendor is an important one. It’s more than a simple landlord-tenant relationship; it’s a cohabitation. You’re domestic partners and you have to select wisely. So, you need to find a partner who can help you make a smooth transition to your desired level of cloud adoption, since you’re going to be there a very long time.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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