Managed services are an important part of the evolving cloud computing story, with vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard moving rapidly to supply infrastructure solutions based on long experience in facilities management.
Other companies are moving to fill niches in vertical markets and local hosting that provide attractive opportunities. Resellers will find a wealth of possibilities in these areas. This is a rapidly evolving market that must be watched carefully.
HP launched CloudSystem on January 27, which is a comprehensive cloud offering based on HP’s Cloud Service Automation and BladeSystem Matrix products. CloudSystem is designed to provide a solution for enterprise and service provider clients seeking to implement hybrid cloud services.
“Cloud computing has brought about a new set of IT management complexities,” says Trevor Armstrong, the company’s country manager for enterprise storage, servers and networking. “Key concerns are the need to gain visibility and management control of both physical and virtual environments, while ensuring that data is secure, protected and compliant. IT management practices that favour ‘automation’ over ‘management’ are required to deliver on the promise of rapid provisioning and high service levels.”
Organisations need to learn how to manage a hybrid mix of services that include in-house, hosted/outsourced, and the cloud. Resellers can play a key role in helping customers to navigate the options for using cloud services in their organisation, and providing guidance on managing this new mix of services.
“To get the most out of cloud computing, organisations need to understand where and how their portfolio of technology services can benefit from cloud sourcing,” says Armstrong. “They need to weigh cloud against traditional delivery models and select the best method of service delivery to get what they need done, at the right cost and in the right time. The choice to implement cloud is different for every company, but most need to carefully consider factors such as security, the openness of the infrastructure, automation, resilience and seamless delivery.”
Resellers have a role in educating the market. “Currently, adoption in the Asia-Pacific region is limited by uncertainties surrounding risks and rewards, and this trend is also seen in New Zealand,” says Armstrong. “Customers want assurance and a safe path to cloud adoption that will address potential risks of security, performance and availability, while providing clear return on investment. As awareness of the benefits of cloud grows, there is a continuing need in the marketplace for consulting services to help customers understand and enable cloud computing.”
IBM is a leader in providing and managing IT services, and has been very active in the cloud computing area across a wide range of interests from hardware to services. “Cloud is becoming a more and more pervasive paradigm, so each IBM business unit is working on different implications,” says Paul Douglas, Integrated Technology Services manager, ANZ. “We are finding that managing infrastructure is becoming a chore for clients. The complexity of environments has gone up. We have been doing a lot of business managing infrastructure on their behalf. The next level up is managing that infrastructure in our datacentres. “
Douglas believes that a key change in the new environment is a new way of thinking. For IBM, that means moving away from individual customisation toward standardisation.
“Cloud is opening a number of opportunities for resellers,” says Douglas. “From an IBM perspective, resellers are the channel to market for our infrastructure Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings to the mid-market. Our experience has been that resellers can develop a much closer relationship and provide a higher level of services than we could alone. It is a new reseller ecosystem. Resellers have typically had a lot of people driving around to sites to provide maintenance or performance reporting. Now, everything can be done online and instantly. There’s a tremendous opportunity to provide that speed and flexibility of service.”
IBM provides Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) with corporate storage locally hosted in a virtualised private environment for those who are reluctant about sending their data offshore, but still need to take advantage of public cloud costs and capabilities.
“Infrastructure as a Service is getting bigger and bigger, and Platform as a Service will follow,” says Douglas. “The utility approach will move from computing and storage into security and other services. The opportunity for resellers is to move in and understand this market. Resellers are key to the market here for IBM.”
The company offers a full spectrum of managed services and cloud possibilities, ranging from creating a reseller delivery infrastructure to providing IaaS services to end user clients via IBM’s cloud.
“This is an evolving market,” says Douglas. “We don’t know what it will look like in 12 or 24 months. We have recently put a new datacentre in place in Highbrook Business Park [in Auckland]. The new datacentre will provide top IT facilities for local businesses, and will also make it possible for New Zealand to provide outsourcing services. The datacentre is cloud-enabled, energy efficient, scalable and uses green technology. For resellers, it will be possible to offer service to other countries in the region, with economies based on lower currency exchange rates.”
EMC is focused on being an infrastructure provider to the service provider community, offering support public, private and hybrid clouds. “We have a full range of services around the cloud,” says chief technical officer Arron Patterson. “We design, architect and build Infrastructure as a Service. We do not sell service directly to the market, but provide infrastructure and service support for resale. We will assist resellers in any way that they require, from providing the technology, to helping configure, or even running it for them.”
EMC views the opportunities in supporting the hybrid cloud as massive. “New Zealand is a nation of small businesses,” says Patterson. “A lot of those users are not technology aware. They may have a server to provide email for five to 20 employees, and often it is not managed well. Resellers know what customers need, and customers want the reseller to handle the problem. They can set up services that are deployed locally with EMC best practices and provide service offerings to their customers.“
Resellers can also assist customers and partners in gaining a better understanding of cloud infrastructure, with services such as transfer of workloads to the cloud, whether it is a private or public cloud.
Kaseya is a software company that develops infrastructure management software, designed to be delivered across the internet. “Our solutions are designed for pure service delivery across the internet,” says Asia Pacific executive vice president Martin Ashby. Kaseya is a Sioux Indian word meaning ‘to protect’. The solutions that we design and develop are all about managing remote, disparate networks of customers in a centralised fashion from a single pane of glass.”
Kaseya’s targets are service providers, and its solutions are available to IT service providers in small medium business up to enterprise level departmental operations of major corporations. “The requirements are fundamentally the same,” says Ashby. “Maintaining uptime and availability for IT assets is important. IT has become an integral part of every business, and availability is paramount to a business being profitable.”
The increasing demands of the digital environment are straining older methods of overseeing the technology. Previously, it was common for resellers to have a technician visit and fix the problems. But this results in downtime, which may have a measurable impact on businesses. Kaseya sees it as important to offer a proactive service to the customer to minimise downtime by adding a regular “health check”. The software makes it possible for the technician to access any asset and run automated procedures to regulate and systematically detect issues.
Kaseya is now making its platform available on the cloud. “We have the traditional offering, a solution that providers could co-host and that remains under their direct control,” says Ashby. “But we are also running a cloud, and are able to deliver a generic cloud offering. As a reseller, if you choose, you don’t even need to bring a server onto the customer site”
Revera is a computing infrastructure specialist, providing IaaS, PaaS, and complex hosting services from its interconnected datacentres and VDC platform in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. “We offer IaaS and PaaS and a spectrum of complex outsourcing services,” says general manager business development, Robin Cockayne. “That’s all we have ever done. The value of computing utility delivered from a sufficiently flexible underlying shared platform, is that customers can get services delivered exactly how and when they want them.”
Unhitching operating systems from applications and infrastructure shifts the focus away from technology. This underlying fluidity provides businesses with the flexibility they need. Traditional constraints of hardware and software interdependencies and price tags vanish.
“Decision makers should assess four main costs: environment, people, software and hardware,” says Cockayne. “You can’t really avoid software applications, and you’re going to pay for environment management one way or another. But once you have all your IT in one place and tap virtualisation and pooled capacity, efficiencies are there for the taking. Fewer organisations have budgets for building and maintaining computer room capacity, but data keeps growing and keeping it safe is expensive.”
Gen-i offers a range of managed services from access to security to infrastructure, some of which are offered as needed via a cloud delivery model. “Our range of cloud solutions spans across all components of Cloud from SaaS, IaaS and PaaS, to a choice of individual services and converged solutions,” says Cloud Infrastructure Solutions leader, Leanne Buer. “Gen-i’s ReadyCloud Services is our IaaS portfolio of services. This includes ReadyCloud Server, Gen-i’s virtual compute and storage service, and ReadyCloud Backup and ReadyCloud Storage will launch later this year. ReadyCloud Mail offers email services, and we also offer security services like Safecom over the wire.”
“We offer a full end-to-end solution regardless of where our client is on the cloud journey,” says Buer. “We back our cloud services with an intensive consultancy process. This enables us to match each client’s unique business needs with the ideal ICT foundation. These services are backed by Telecom’s robust datacentre infrastructure and Gen-i’s management processes.”
The company has delivered hosted services leveraging virtualisation technologies across servers, storage and networks for some time. The more recent cloud offerings are a natural extension to this and fill out its service offerings.
Local service is an important part of the emerging cloud landscape. “Many New Zealand companies are looking to local providers like Gen-i to temper their concerns about where their data is located, and to ensure it can be easily accessed here,” says Buer.