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Managed Vs. Cloud Services

Self-proclaimed purist Ochs explains the difference between a managed service and a cloud service citing a June 2009 Gartner publication.

Managed services are not cloud services. Going back to my rule, when I see a topic surface three times in quick succession, it is worth addressing here in the IPED column as there are likely others who are asking about it.

In recent partner interviews with solution providers (VAR heritage) who have transitioned their businesses to add recurring revenue offerings to their line cards, I have noted an increase in the number of partners who indicate they offer cloud services -- not managed services, but cloud services.

Feel free to call me a purist -- folks who know me personally do so regularly -- but in my mind there is a difference between a managed service and a cloud service. A managed service could include managing a customer’s mobile devices by user by month, taking responsibility for customer backup and recovery processes and operations, hosting the e-mail server, managing VoIP or print. The managed service’s defining factors include a solution provider owning and operating against the service level for the customer on a recurring revenue contract.

So what makes a cloud service different from a managed service? To answer that question, let’s go back to the Gartner definition of cloud computing published in June 2009 in “Five Refining Attributes of Public and Private Cloud Computing.”

The five characteristics of cloud computing start with a service-based capability, typically including a well-defined service interface. Check. Most partners I speak with have defined new service-based offerings. Second, the service-based offering must be scalable and elastic, meaning users or capacity may be increased or decreased to meet customers’ needs or utilization. Check. Most of the new service-based partner offerings, including their own or those partners resell or white-label, scale up and down to meet customers’ needs.

The next two characteristics of the Gartner cloud computing definition, Nos. 3 and 4, indicate cloud computing is shared, meaning pooled to meet the needs of multiple clients, and then cloud computing is metered by use. I typically see the shared capability implemented via a virtualized computing environment and metered use monitored by recently introduced cloud platform solutions or software products. Virtualized and metered environments are where I most often see a gap in the solution provider offerings when compared to the Gartner definition. Many partner-managed services are not virtualized nor are all solution providers metering customers’ use of the computing environment to facilitate chargeback to customers or departments within a larger enterprise. However, if a solution provider is reselling or white-labeling a public cloud service or has implemented these capabilities in their own data center, characteristics Nos. 3 and 4 are met. Check.

Gartner cloud computing characteristic No. 5 is straightforward: The service uses Internet technologies, including Internet identifiers and protocols. This is typically the case for most remotely managed services but may not be the case for some managed services provided on-site at the customer premises.

As a purist, I have an interest in understanding whether a solution is delivered via a managed or cloud service. Many solution provider services meet three of the five criteria and are typically managed rather than cloud services, either of which is valuable due to the recurring revenue.

BACKTALK: Contact SVP, IPED MarketBridge Alliance Rauline Ochs via e-mail at rauline.ochs@ubm.com.

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