MSP Cloud Transition

Whether it is cloud migration, integration or management, MSP’s are embracing cloud technologies like never before. The market for cloud services is only going one way but why are customers turning to MSP’s over their traditional resellers? In this feature Editor David Dungay asked the MSP market how they are dealing with the transition to the cloud.

MSP’s have never been in more demand as businesses look for expertise in a consumable model. With the current rate of digital transformation accelerating employing an MSP to transition your business into cloud environments where applicable sounds like a sensible idea. But what is the market seeing when it comes to adoption rates?

Kevin Drinkall, EMEA Wireless and Cloud Market Development Manager at Zyxel, commented “There’s no denying cloud adoption is on the rise, due to business need for speed to drive greater business outcomes. However, for the most part, businesses haven’t been able to completely move to the cloud. It has had to happen piece by piece and many now use cloud-based services without even realising it. However, while the adoption of a cloud-based network is business critical to support fast-paced growth, many businesses are unlikely to fully move to this model.

As such, businesses have looked to key components of their business infrastructure that can be streamlined by the cloud. For example, cloud-based networks, such as Zyxel’s Nebula offering, provide a single view of the network for enhanced analysis to support real-time management. By adopting a cloud-based network infrastructure, businesses can centralise resource to manage IT services, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.”

Andrew Cheel, Customer Success Director at Atos added, “To ensure a smooth journey to the cloud, the emphasis must be on good collaboration and communication. For smaller organisations of up to 1500 users, the change can happen rapidly, but we find larger enterprises are more likely to test the waters, dipping their toes in gradually.

Often the two primary reasons for choosing cloud is because of the (a) different cost model (capex to opex) and (b) speed of deployment and for large corporates, this is usually fuelled by a change in circumstances, for example an office move or expansion, which requires speed and smooth integration with head office and the rest of the estate.”

Cheel continued, “We also see cloud services being implemented across individual business functions, particularly those less critical and time sensitive, as a way of testing the solution with a small section of the business to begin with before deploying across the board.”

Ben Savage, Sales and Marketing Director, Timico, commented “The adoption to public cloud also brings a great opportunity for MSPs. This adoption is happening at an increasing rate, but there are many applications that businesses can’t migrate to the cloud. It is here that MSPs, looking to add value to their clients, could focus their efforts to boost business growth. These applications are often customised to certain businesses, and are designed to carry out a specific task, so it is vital that MSPs have advanced knowledge of what each application is, and why it is important to that customer. This knowledge will help MSPs manage the application more effectively, as well as unlock new growth potential in the future.”

Ben Savage, Sales and Marketing Director, Timico

On the future and the multi-cloud opportunity, Drinkall commented, “In the early days, multi-cloud came from the uncertainties of cloud reliability and businesses wanted to prevent data loss or downtime, and rightly so. However, this has since evolved, and multi-cloud environments have become driven by business need for the differing features offered by different providers, as well as the geographic location of offices and the cloud providers. From an MSP’s perspective, the key challenge in managing these environments is minimalising cloud for cloud-sake, often using multiple providers means there is an overlap when it comes to offerings, duplicating tasks and the time needed to manage multiple providers. On the other hand, as the cloud evolves, MSPs will need to keep one step ahead (where possible) by learning new skills and ensuring existing workflows and processes still apply to their customers’ new working environments.”

Why SD-WAN? Delivery is everything

Nick Sacke, Head of IoT at Comms 365 commented, “In a cloud dominated user environment, the quality and reliability of the WAN to deliver application performance has become an essential component of IT infrastructure design. The current consensus is that traditional MPLS networks struggle with the volume of Internet-based cloud traffic, the diversity of routing locations (applications are delivered from multiple clouds, not a single datacentre), and ensuring application performance across both MPLS and Internet-bearing services. The impact of this is an increase in the number of customers evaluating and requesting SD-WAN solutions from their service providers. Indeed, it would be hard to find an organisation today taking the decision to go for traditional MPLS without considering the SD-WAN alternative. Given the increasing commitment to improving user experience and enhancing the management of application performance, it is the ease with which the benefits of the SD-WAN technology can be utilised – from agility and rapid change to multi-linked failover and application prioritisation – that should be an essential consideration.

And as such, the way in which organisations decide to deploy SD-WAN will be key. Right now in the UK it is the Managed SD-WAN service model that dominates the market, as experienced MSPs can rapidly deploy the solution with demonstrable high performance and multiple built-in capabilities from day one, meaning that organisations can reap the benefits almost immediately. Replicating the familiar outsourced services used by many organisations to achieve WAN connectivity, MSPs are rapidly adding SD-WAN technologies to existing managed services portfolios. The services include every aspect of the SD-WAN solution, from hardware to software, networking and connectivity, all delivered within the standard Service Level Agreement (SLA) model.”

Nick Sacke, Head IoT and Products, Comms365

MSP Challenges

If you have taken an established business into the cloud you will be aware that it isn’t always plain sailing. Company behaviour, culture, as well as a myriad of technical challenges can all bring a level of complexity to any transition.

Jim Lippie, Kaseya senior vice president, partner development, said “Key industry trends including heightened attention to security; the requirement for data protection and back-up in a data-driven world; and the need to manage hybrid and multi-cloud environments, present a combination of crucial challenges for MSPs. Cloud adoption is certainly a key area of concern for many MSPs, arguably second only in order of importance to cyber-security.”

Andrew Cheel commented, “There are three main challenges that we see as a cloud provider. The first and perhaps one of the most prevalent concerns can come from the on-site IT teams, who are used to controlling and running all the hardware for the company. By moving to the cloud, services will move to an external provider and this can sometimes bring up problems. For example, the perceived level of authority and influence of the IT team can be considered as being eroded and unless the team members have a cloud mindset, you can be met with the closed doors of people who are resistant to change.

Questions may also be raised about the organisation’s resilience – will it be negatively affected when the service is moved to the cloud? Are the people running the cloud solutions as dedicated as our own IT team? With a service that can be managed from any part of the world, data protection, connectivity and security are key concerns that providers must be prepared to address.

Compliance can be another major challenge, especially in heavily regulated markets. Procurement teams often ask for proof of various accreditations and qualifications, but there is always a balance to be struck as these extra elements more-often-than-not incur additional costs which then become less attractive to customers.”

Public Sector security woes

“You can forgive CISOs and IT departments of being of a nervous disposition. No one wants to wake up to news that they have a breach on their hands. But the fact is, regardless of size or type, companies and public sector organisations feel more under attack than ever. They are also under pressure to meet the demands from new legislation – not least of course, GDPR.

SMBs, who once felt secure in the belief that they were not big enough to be targeted, now face real threats on a daily basis. But unfortunately they often lack the budget or in-house expertise to achieve a strong cyber security posture. Without the capacity to stay one step ahead by shoring up defences or regularly configuring, monitoring and updating security products and processes, SMBs and left playing catch-up and keeping their fingers crossed.

To compound the problem. SMBs often don’t have level of visibility into what IT resources are being consumed, where they reside and how they potentially interact. Whether it is a tablet device running lightweight bookkeeping or project management software or a back-office system running SaaS applications, organisations need to be able to identify what data is being used, where it is stored and how it’s processed by users and applications.

So, what is the answer, faced with a myriad of vendors claiming to offer ‘the solution’? It appears that more CISOs and IT teams are looking to their existing Managed Service Providers for help. They want them to add the extra S and move from being an MSP to a Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP).”

Down the road

So what are we likely to see from the cloud and MSP space over the next year?

Drinkall commented, “We see businesses shifting their attention over the next 12 months to their in-house capabilities and the use of technologies to create greater efficiencies, boost productivity and ultimately, to find margin. It’s no longer about embracing technology to stand out, technology must provide ROI and fast. This is where the network is so important.”

Cheel added, “There is so much more to come in terms of innovation from software vendors and MSPs who will deliver solutions that customers don’t realise that they need yet. We expect to see more inter-cloud working systems and collaboration across platforms with IoT and AI playing a part in these developments too.

Another development will likely be in terms of pricing models, which we are used to seeing as a cost per user per month. However, with a growing need for flexibility a consumption model may become the norm for new application and micro services, where customers can pay for what they use e.g. for a large-scale one-off event, rather than paying a higher fee year-round where there are only a few day to day users.”

Jonathan Whitley, Sales Director for Northern Europe at WatchGuard Technologies

Savage commented “All of this comes down to making customers happier, and driving loyalty by improving, and tailoring, the customer experience. This is placing huge pressures on business to interact with customers better and find employees that can make a positive impact on their services. Many companies are now placing more focus than ever before on human capital, and creating a positive employee experience (EX) to encourage talent hiring and retention. Research conducted last year showed companies that invested heavily in employees earned more than four times the average profit, and two times the average revenue compared to those that didn’t.

Focusing on customers, and the staff that play a part in serving them, will help organisations exceed their potential and, ultimately, grow – but managed service providers (MSPs) also have a crucial role to play in these businesses’ evolution.”

ED SAYS…

The market is at a crucial time in its evolution as businesses look for skills they can’t find from within. MSP’s would seem like the perfect remedy to service need for cloud migration services but staying abreast of the skills in demand is no easy feat. Vendors can play their part here and should be an enabler for you to deliver the right services, look for those that aide rather than hinder.

“The adoption to public cloud also brings a great opportunity for MSPs. This adoption is happening at an increasing rate, but there are many applications that businesses can’t migrate to the cloud.” – Ben Savage, Sales and Marketing Director, Timico, commented

“We see businesses shifting their attention over the next 12 months to their in-house capabilities and the use of technologies to create greater efficiencies, boost productivity and ultimately, to find margin.” – Kevin Drinkall, EMEA Wireless and Cloud Market Development Manager at Zyxel

STATS

Forecasts for SD-WAN growth range from $2.5 billion to $8.05 billion by 2021

Top IT problems include public cloud adoption/migration/support (11%); private cloud adoption/migration (9%), and hybrid cloud adoption/migration (8%) – Kaseya’s 2019 MSP Benchmark Survey

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine