MSPs have built their businesses on offering a suite of standard IT services to their customers. But now many of those customers have begun migrating to the cloud, and taking advantage of the unique services the cloud model offers. That should be a warning flag for traditional MSPs. With much of their customer base moving to the cloud, those MSPs that don’t offer their own set of cloud-based services in a managed private cloud risk being left behind.
Still, although companies are moving to the cloud in large numbers, many are not yet ready to totally commit their applications and data to public cloud platforms. Some are concerned about the security of their data in a multi-tenant environment. Others have performance requirements that, due to inherent latency effects, the public cloud has difficulty meeting. Whatever the cause may be, these companies desire to keep at least a portion of their workloads under their direct control.
Yet, the benefits of the cloud model are too compelling to forego. That’s what is leading a growing number of companies to implement private clouds, which can provide most of the benefits of the cloud model in an exclusive, single-tenant environment.
However, managing a sophisticated cloud platform is not a trivial task. Doing so requires a level of expertise that many companies lack. And that’s where opportunity lies for forward-looking MSPs.
Most companies contemplating use of a private cloud simply lack the internal resources necessary to set up, manage, and support an in-house cloud environment. MSPs that can supply that kind of expertise and take the cloud management load off their customers’ backs can carve out an important and secure role for themselves. In other words, MSPs that offer their customers managed private clouds can keep themselves on track to survive and even thrive as the corporate IT environment becomes more and more cloud-centric.
What Is a Managed Private Cloud?
A managed private cloud is, first of all, a private cloud – that is, a fully functional cloud platform that is implemented in a completely private environment with a single tenant rather than the multiple tenants that characterize the public cloud. Although they are entirely dedicated to a single customer, these clouds are managed by third parties, and their physical resources, such as servers, storage, and networking devices, may reside either on the customer’s premises, or in the facilities of the cloud manager.
How MSPs Can Implement Managed Private Clouds
A cloud is really just a wide array of computing services delivered to customers through internet connections. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines it this way:
Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
Cloud services are made available through what is called a “stack,” which is simply a broad range of resources that are conceptually built on top of one another.
The capabilities of a cloud platform are defined by its stack. In fact, a cloud’s stack is often referred to as its operating system. That’s the way the OpenStack Foundation views its own free offering, which is probably the stack most widely used to implement private clouds today:
“OpenStack is a cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, all managed through a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering their users to provision resources through a web interface.”
OpenStack is one of several open source products available to MSPs for building managed private clouds for their customers. Others include CloudStack, Eucalyptus, and OpenNebula. In addition, some of the major public clouds are beginning to make their proprietary stacks available to private cloud builders. For example, Microsoft is offering its Azure Stack, providing access to the same APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and tool sets that characterize the Azure public cloud.
Because these stacks and their APIs are well documented, MSPs that desire to do so should be able to develop in-depth familiarity with one or more of these offerings. By combining that expertise with their traditional strengths in areas such as 24/7/365 monitoring and support, and enterprise-level backup/restore/disaster recovery, MSPs will be well positioned to provide critically important services for customers who need a managed private cloud.
MSPs Should Work With Knowledgeable Partners
One way for an MSP to reduce the level of cloud-specific knowledge required of its own staff is to work with partners that already possess that kind of expertise. For example, Zadara Storage is well familiar with the intricacies of both public and private clouds. Its VPSA Storage Arrays are already installed in the facilities of major public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), among others. The same technology is available for use with on-premises private clouds at customer sites.
When its VPSA Storage Arrays are used in private clouds, Zadara takes on the responsibility to remotely operate, monitor, maintain, and upgrade storage hardware and software as necessary. By working with a partner such as Zadara, an MSP can substantially reduce the amount of time and dedicated expert staff required to support its customers, while still providing the highest levels of service.
If you’d like to know more about how Zadara can help you provide managed private clouds to your customers, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.