As the IT industry moves toward cloud computing, managed service providers will have a leg up on other VARs as they look to transition their customers toward that environment, said a panel of MSPs at COMDEXvirtual.
"Every MSP needs to figure out how they're playing in the cloud. Clients of every size are looking to leverage the cloud," said Rory Sanchez, president and CEO of SL Powers, a West Palm Beach, Fla.-based MSP. "I've talked to other MSPs and IT service providers who say 'I don't want to talk cloud to my client because it's going to take away from what I do.' I think every one of them needs to figure out what their play is and at least start with a hybrid approach."
Sanchez spoke during a cloud computing session at COMDEXvirtual, the online conference hosted by CRN parent company Everything Channel. The show takes place November 16 - 17, and sessions are available on-demand until May 17, 2011.
Because MSPs already have engaged their clients to give them control of some aspects of their IT infrastructure, those clients should be predisposed to let those MSPs host or at least manage cloud-based offerings that provide the customers with further efficiencies, said Ted Warner, president of Connecting Point of Greeley, Greeley, Colo.
"It's a natural progression from MSP to cloud provider. Not every MSP is going to have to build their own data center or even rent data center space, but they better be good at being cloud managers," Warner said. "Our managed clients are going to be demanding that we continue to manage what we do today, but as more of their apps are delivered through cloud, we will be able to manage that for them. Each and every MSP is going to have this strategy. Today is the time to start. If you wait another six [or] 12 months, you're going to fall behind the curve and it will be an uphill fight."
NEXT: A Step Ahead On Client Education
David Powell, vice president of managed services at TekLinks, based in Birmingham, Ala., said once clients have recognized the value of managed services and managing to an SLA instead of trying to do everything internally or relying on a break-fix model, a transition to the cloud is easier.
"The same discussions we had around managed services, we're now having around cloud. Customers view it as an either/or proposition. Once you have an on-demand services model, the same approach applies to the cloud," Powell said.
Some Connecting Point clients are even coming to Warner to talk about moving to the cloud, he said. "They don't have the expertise or the desire to have their own infrastructure in their environment," he said.
Sanchez agreed that end users are becoming more cloud-savvy and better understand the concept of the technology.
"They get the value of having certain services not at their location. A lot of companies are becoming decentralized. They're opening other locations or have mobile workers and they're asking 'Why should we have all that traffic come down a T1 into our location?' Take everything out into a robust, 24x7, highly-redundant facility," Sanchez said.
Just a couple of years ago, TekLinks spent a great deal of time educating customers on the benefits of managed services. With that knowledge base in place, the cloud conversation becomes easier, said Powell.
"Now we go in and I don't have to spend the first half of the visit about what it is. It's more about how they can use it and how can they recognize those efficiencies. There's been a great customer education movement taken on by a lot of people we're seeing the fruit of it," he said.
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