As Thanos, the main villain in Avengers: Endgame, famously found out: nothing is inevitable. Today, it seems like the eventual migration of all workloads to Cloud environments is inevitable. As one example, Altman Solon’s Cloud Purchasing Survey, conducted with Cowen, finds that in five years 55 percent of business workloads will be supported by public/private Cloud or SaaS infrastructures –a nine percentage point increase over the share of Cloud workloads today.
However, the same survey reveals that 92 percent of companies admit they will be tied to hybrid cloud and traditional dedicated IT infrastructure for the long term. IT managers may have their heads in the Cloud, but they still have a foot (at least) planted firmly on the ground.
While some workloads are “lift and shift,” others – oftentimes those that are bespoke on old programming languages to run on specialty designed hardware (e.g. room-sized mainframe computers!) – are just not worth the cost or risk of migration. Turns out, it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers to make it happen.
The complexity of this migration process, along with the challenges of ongoing hybrid management, provides an opportunity for Managed Service Providers (MSP) to continue to play an important role. But the skills and tools required need to evolve too. Here are four key approaches for MSPs to stay competitive in this context:
The cloud migration market is worth billions of dollars annually, split between a “lift and shift” processes and more comprehensive rewrite/rearchitect migrations. The opportunity for “lift and shift” migrations is dwindling across most applicable organizations as customers move past the quick wins to more complex migration projects.
Service providers with ‘dev-ops’ capabilities – both for existing and for new workloads, with entire process flows designed to allow for continuous iteration and optimization – are in high demand.
Get on the front foot for SaaS
The jump straight to SaaS (cloud computing services that deliver software applications hosted in the cloud to customers) applications – removing the need to manage infrastructure on behalf of the customer – is also forcing a dramatic rethink of traditional MSP services. MSPs can put the “Service” back in Managed Service Provider with the following strategies:
- Develop expertise in one-time services that are still relevant in a SaaS environment, including workload assessments (consulting), and configuration/integrations.
- Focus on applications that will remain IaaS (shared computing resources owned and operated by a 3rd party provider).
- Manage an overall hybrid ‘service wrapper’ to monitor performance multiple applications.
Focus on Cloud (in)security
Amid the mass migration, enterprise firms and small businesses are developing some misgivings over security in the Cloud. Although security (along with cost) remains one of the top purchasing criteria for cloud solutions, many organizations are dubious about hosting workloads in the cloud due to security concerns. MSPs that can create robust cloud security solutions for clients – and effectively market this ability – will have a leg up in the market:
- Develop the consultancy chops and track record to enable a compliance-focused “sharp end of the spear” to win new business.
- Incorporate security into existing cloud workload assessments to determine the appropriate infrastructure workload-by-workload with the benefit of a more holistic cost, performance and security perspective.
- Weave Service Organization Control (SOC)-driven threat detection to existing Network Operations Center (NOC) or infrastructure-centric monitoring offerings to offer a true “single pane of glass.”
It is a fragmented market, with thousands of MSPs serving local businesses nationally. Invest in developing differentiated intellectual property to stand out from the crowd. This need not take the form of ground up software development, particularly where those capabilities do not already exist, instead consider:
- Investing in a distinct ‘packaging’ layer in house, to bring a dashboard or custom reporting tool that consolidates billing, monitoring, service tickets, and other functions in one place.
- Developing repeatable and documented processes, methodology and templates that will drive profitable repeatability at scale.
- Cultivating close partnerships with leading IaaS and SaaS vendors to benefit not only from differentiated brand associating, positioning and leads, but also opportunities for custom integrations and configurations to offer customers.
In the climactic battle of ‘Endgame’, The Avengers proved that nothing was inevitable by incorporating their galactic powers with a terrestrial presence to assure victory. Similarly, moving forward MSPs will best serve customers’ holistic needs through a hybrid of Cloud and non-Cloud services.
Published by Ben Matthews – Partner in Atman Solon’s San Francisco office. Focus on cloud services, software and cyber security.