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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreement (SLA)

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5 Ways to Improve Your MSP Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are the foundation of your MSP business. They are essential to building strong client relationships and must be clear, reasonable and well-constructed.

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MSPtv Episode 13: Cloud Conversation Part 1 - A Discussion with our CTO & VP of Engineering

Posted February 28, 2014by Scott Glidden

 

 

02-28-2014-Nodoushani.pngIn this weeks episode of MSPtv, we're talking about the Cloud. What's the future of cloud computing? What are your options for migrating to the cloud? What are the opportunities in the cloud marketplace for MSPs? Find out all this and more as we sit down with Paiman Nodoushani, CTO & VP of Engineering at Continuum Managed Services. 

 

Have any suggestions for an MSPtv episode? Want to give us your feedback? Email us at mspnow@continuum.net and let us know what you think!

 

Want a copy of Paiman's Slides?
view now

MSPtv Episode 13: Cloud Conversation Part 1 - A Discussion with our CTO & VP of Engineering

See below for a full transcript of this episode.

  • What is the cloud (and what does it mean for our partners)?
    • From 2011 to 2020, the cloud market is expected to grow from $40 Billion to $240 Billion
    • 3 types of cloud infrastructures
      • Public - Owned and operated by a CSP (cloud services provider). Multiple customers and mulitple people can go and access it
      • Private - infrastructure operated solely for one organization
      • Hybrid - combination of private and public that are separate entities, but are bound together by proprietary standardized interfaces that allows both application and data portability (e.g. cloud bursting - if you don't have enough compute resources internally, you can expand into the cloud on-demand)
    • Virtualization - A middle layer running on top of a standardized, off-the-shelf hardware that creates separate, virtual machines
    • Cloud delivery definitions
      • Private Cloud = on premise
      • Hosted Private cloud = dedicated, hosted, single customer
      • Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) = multiple customers supported through separate virtual machines (VM) for each customer
      • SaaS Cloud = Multiple customers supported through multiple tenancy via VM or administration
  • Opportunities in the Cloud Market
    • BDR
    • Cloud Migration
    • Cloud infrastructure management
    • File syncing and sharing

 

Eager to learn more about the cloud and its future? Dee Zepf, VP of Products & Technical Services at Continuum, continues the discussion! 

Check Out Part 2 of our Cloud Conversation

Go Now!

 


Episode Transcript

SCOTT: Hello everyone and welcome to another program of MSP TV.  My name is Scott Glidden and I am here today with Paiman Nodoushani.  He’s our VP of Engineering and CTO here at Continuum. How are you today Paiman?

PAIMAN: Good.  Good.  Thank you Scott.

SCOTT:  Welcome aboard.

PAIMAN: Thank you.

SCOTT: We are also here today with a live audience.

AUDIENCE: [Cheering].

SCOTT: Thank you.  This will be a regular feature of this show. Paiman is here today to talk to us about the Cloud, but before we get started, you and I were talking just before the program about a letter that the new CEO of Microsoft sent to his employees. Can you share some of your thoughts?

PAIMAN: Yeah. I actually thought that was interesting. Satya Nadella sent this email to all the employees and my takeaways were basically three main things. One, I am a big believer of emotional intelligence; social awareness, team awareness connecting with people.  And I felt that his email was personal.  He went through a little bit about who he is, what he has done and a little bit about sharing his vision for the company. 

The second thing was he talked about some of the changes that are happening.  He talked about the connected world, the connected devices. He talked about big data. He talked about Cloud and the fact that Microsoft has to reinvent itself and as they think about the future think about connect the world window - - mobile --    

SCOTT: Yeah.  Right. 

PAIMAN: -- it was Cloud first. And then the third thing that stayed with me was innovation.  He talked about innovation, which is not only about Microsoft, but all of us believe in you have got to think about innovation, not necessarily protecting the legacy, but it’s about how you come up with new innovative things pretty quickly. I thought it was a pretty interesting letter.

SCOTT: Yeah.  It was impressive that a - - what he has been with the company 22-25 years and he still seemed to be maintaining the passion about trying to change the world and make it a better place. It was…there will be a link for that on this page here, so take a look at it.  It was worth a read.  So speaking of the Cloud, it seems to me, every time I turn around these days someone is talking about the Cloud and it’s not the weather that we are talking about.

It’s everywhere right?

PAIMAN: Absolutely, so – 

SCOTT: Is it just one Cloud or…tell us about it?

PAIMAN: Yeah.  So what I am going to talk about in the next five to ten minutes is just really quickly about Cloud; what does it mean, but more importantly, what does it mean to our managed service provider, which are our partners. I think we all agree that Cloud is really an overused word.  I think every day you hear things such as Amazon web services, software is a service, platform is a service, infrastructure is a service, virtualization and all of them are really being equated with Cloud.

But one thing that everybody including the analysts agree on is Cloud is a big market opportunity. In 2011 Forester came with a projection that said from 2011-2020 the market for Cloud computing is going to grow from forty billion to two hundred forty billion.  That’s a very, very big change.  And given the fact that yes it’s not necessarily all a serviceable market for us and for our MSPs because it really includes the small/medium businesses; it includes mid-marking, it includes enterprises. But it’s a huge opportunity for everybody to pay attention.

SCOTT: For our partners especially.

PAIMAN: Absolutely. So there is definitely something that’s happening.  It’s - - and everybody has got to go and pay attention to it, otherwise you are going to be left behind.

SCOTT: Right.  And what kinds of services, what kinds of variations?

PAIMAN: Yeah.  So in the next slide one of the things that I am going to talk about is what is Cloud and what does it really mean to really build a common vocabulary around Cloud and how do we refer to the Cloud.  So when you are talking about Cloud you are really talking about services and a deployment model.  I think on a services - - on a deployment model, I really have stayed with three basic deployment models, which is private Cloud, public Cloud and then hybrid Clouds.  Private Cloud is really a Cloud where the infrastructure is really operated solely for one organization. A public Cloud is where the infrastructure is really owned by a Cloud service provider, which are called CSBs and multiple customers and multiple people can go and access it. A hybrid Cloud is really a combination of private and public Clouds that are separate entities, but they are bound together by either proprietary standardized interfaces that allows both application as well as data portability.  And a good example of it is Cloud bursting, whereas if you are within your enterprise IT and you don’t have enough compute resources, you can burst into the Cloud.

SCOTT: Yep, on demand kind of thing.

PAIMAN:  Yeah. Absolutely.  Now, moving to the services, if you take a look at companies such as Oracle, Red Hat and VMware, they basically provide the basic layer, which is virtualization, which is you are running it on top of a standardized off the shelf hardware and they add their own middle layer on top of it and they offer that to the marketplace.  Companies such as Amazon and Rack Space take what’s being provided and they add metering and billing capability as well as an API so you can go and ask for resources on demand and they provide that as what is called infrastructure to the service.

Then companies such as Microsoft, Twilio and Sales Force through its VM force, they provide an application developing environment; a toolkit if you want to call it that makes it easier for companies to develop applications that are easy to deploy in the Cloud and they - - they provide that as something platform as a service. And then when you move all of it to the right, companies such as Cisco through its WebEx service, GoToMeeting, which is part of Citrix, they really are using all the building blocks from previous blocks that I just showed and they offer a true application as a service that’s elastic; that runs on demand that when you want a resource you go and ask for it and it gets created.

SCOTT: So there is a variation between all these different platforms, all these different opportunities. 

PAIMAN: Absolutely.  But those are the main building blocks to get a common vocabulary across the board for everybody; infrastructure, service platform, and service offer service.

Now, if I go to the next slide I also wanted to build a common vocabulary around the Cloud delivery definitions. So if you take a look at a private Cloud, private Cloud is where the Cloud is within the SMB. You can think of it as it’s basically an SMB that has brought some hardware and software and is running it bundled together within its IT infrastructure.  Let’s call it a data center.  It could be owned by them or it could be managed internally by them or managed - - or the management of that could be outsourced.  Host a private Cloud is where - - it’s the same as the previous case except the hardware and software infrastructure is outside of the enterprise boundaries. It’s typically hosted by a hoster and but is being provided directly for one particular customer.

SCOTT: So there seems to be - - and what you are describing - - I am sorry to interrupt, but it does - - it seems like there is a tremendous amount of flexibility for our partners.

PAIMAN: Oh absolutely.

SCOTT: As far as the elasticity of demand and – and infrastructure.

PAIMAN: Yeah and I think we are going to get into that as what does Cloud really mean to them and how they can take advantage of the opportunities that are coming, but more importantly, what are the roles that we are providing, what are some of the tools that we are providing.

And that is a host of private Cloud.  So the infrastructure is outside of the enterprise domain.  It’s typically at a hoster and its being provided for a sole entity of one enterprise. Now, the virtual private Cloud is the same as the previous one except you are adding virtualization on top of it such that a hoster can really get the economics benefits of providing the same infrastructure for multiple customers because of that virtual infrastructure that you get. And a SAS Cloud is a true real time elastic on demand where you can ask for a resource and get it when you need it and when you are done with it that resource goes away. And think about web conferencing that comes from WebEx.  When you want it, it is truly an on demand that you ask for it; that resource didn’t exist. It basically gets created somewhere in the Cloud.  You don’t necessarily know where it is and you don’t necessarily care where it is, but when you are done with it you basically just pay for the entity that you used and then it just goes away. And that’s really the elasticity in the true SAS Cloud that you get.

SCOTT: Which are our partners in dealing with an SMB marketplace offers a lot of opportunity for them.

PAIMAN: That’s right. 

SCOTT: They don’t have to try and cover the whole field.

PAIMAN: Right.  And I think every one of these things there is – every customer is looking for a particular reason that they want to move to the Cloud. And each one of these delivery definitions that I talked about has a specific place for a specific for a specific customer as what is it that they are really looking for.  Now, if I go to the next slide this is what we are going to talk about Cloud and why customers are really looking for the Cloud. So the first thing is Cloud is really not about a technology; Cloud is really about a business model. And different customers look for…they look for - - they have different business reasons that they look for the Clouds.  Some of them are looking to change the way that they’re spending their money and they want to get away from buying infrastructure and spending the Capex dollar and they want to get the infrastructure in an Opex model and they get that from the Cloud.

Some of the Cloud customers are looking for ability to spin up new services and application and Cloud offers an easy way for them to go and try a new application and be able to get that pretty quickly out there.  Some of the customers are looking for reducing the IT staff, which is typically responsible for setting up those IT infrastructures and thus they look for a Cloud as a way of reducing that IT spend that they have.  But more and more I think we are seeing many customers are reaching the obsolesce of the hardware that they have within the enterprise and thus they are -- they are with this question as do I want to buy new hardware or do I want to go to the Cloud and get it from the Cloud?  And that is one of the things that we are seeing –

SCOTT: Right. Let somebody else worry about that.

PAIMAN: That’s right. And that’s one of the things that we are seeing more and more.  But at the end of the day, I think the implications and what’s important to SMB is pretty clear.  They are looking for better cost savings over time and at the same time they are looking for the flexibility and scalability that Cloud can bring for them.

SCOTT: Certainly that’s a big part of the selling point.  And it’s important for our partners to begin this conversation with their clients, their SMBs that they are serving.  It’s almost like they have to get out ahead of the curve.

PAIMAN: Absolutely.  And I think that’s one of the reasons that we are having this session to make sure that people know what Cloud means and be able to talk about the different things that matter in the Cloud, because Cloud is a single word, but means so many different things to people.

SCOTT: Yeah.  And so are people entering the Cloud or adapting to the Cloud at different levels?

PAIMAN:  They are. And if I go to the next slide, first of all, I believe Cloud is really an evolution and it’s not a revolution. Meaning that not everything is going to move to the Cloud.

SCOTT: It’s not the panacea for everyone.

PAIMAN: The customers are looking to augment their on premise solutions with things that are on - - in the Cloud and that’s what I call an evolution, not necessarily a revolution. If I take a look at our managed service providers partners I would describe them and – and bucket them into three different places and the size of each one of these circles represent that the percentage of the partner roughly that fall in these categories. I call them optimizers, transformers and pioneers. Optimizers are really looking for ways to - - they are looking to reduce cost and they are looking to drive efficiency. They are looking for ways that they can drive cost out of the IT infrastructure for their SMB partners.

So what they are really looking for is they are adopting virtualization stacks that are looking for VMWare and how they can tie into that and be able to manage things simpler for their customers. But they are not really looking to change the way that the customer experience is basically cost saving and improve and optimization, drive the cost out.  The transformers are the set of MSBs that are looking to adopt or move to either manage or host a Cloud and from an external perspective; it’s truly about transforming the customer experience.  They are looking for how it can take the way that the customers look into aligning their cost to the enterprise needs that they have and thus they are looking at manage and host the Cloud because that allows them to optimize the cost the customers are looking for into the way that they are delivering the solution to them.  And then all the way to the right is really the pioneers and the pioneers are really looking create a new experience - - customer experience. They are embracing many different ways to create these new experiences of adopting social and mobile applications who offer these things. And the best way to describe it is think about salesforce, when salesforce first came about. 

Salesforce was all about how do I go and create a different - - completely different experience for my customers. So it wasn’t taking something that existed today so that we are really looking for how do I change the customer experience and that’s this set of managed service providers that are called pioneers.

But this line is important because it really represents the type of managed service provided customers that we have and the choices that we make as the company are really dependent on the size of each one of these buckets that the customers fall into.

SCOTT: That we are servicing each of them. Right.

PAIMAN: Absolutely. Now, if I go to the next slide, I wanted to really to take a look within the small median business and take a look at what exists within the SMB.  So obviously there are servers, there are desktops, there are endpoints that we all know and love.  We put our remote monitoring management on it and we are able to manage and monitor those devices before our partners.  There is storage that many of these SMBs are using.  It could be a share point that they are using to put their files on or it could be a storage that they are using to run their sequel servers.

There is virtualized stack and I specifically separated that out from servers because virtualized stack is becoming a standard way of building servers out there. Nobody is really building…I should - - I shouldn’t say nobody.  Very little number of people are building just physical servers. Everybody is just building a server, making it virtualized and offering applications on top of it. Then you have network equipment; routers, switches, wireless LANS.  You have voice communications, which is the PBX’s, the phones they use at your desktop. Then there is various application that the SMB is using. There is typically video surveillance; software, cameras and the storage that manages those video surveillance.

SCOTT: It is like you are hitting a number of different verticals here within the…right, telecom, office equipment, security.  There is a whole list of different ways that you are working with SMBs.

PAIMAN: Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Then there is badge management right, when you come in; the when did you come in and when did you leave.  Many of those things tie into time management systems and so on and so forth.  And then there is HVAC and building automation, many of the buildings or smart offices that turn things on at the same time, turn things off.

SCOTT: Data points all over the place within that SMB.  Yeah.

PAIMAN: And then there is network devices; there are printers, fax machines and so on and so forth.  And the reason that I put this up there is because in the next slide we are saying there are many, many opportunities if you take a look within what physically exists within SMB and our challenge as a company is going to figure out how do we provide relevance as it comes to each one of these devices that we talked about.

So if I go to the next slide, well what are the opportunities for us and for our channel partners? If I take out some of the things that are not really relevant for us as a company, because they really represent the far adjacencies, so if I take out things such as HVAC and badge management and video surveillance, you are basically left with things such as applications, virtual machines, storage, servers, access points, desktops, voice communication, network devices. And the main point that I am trying to make here is many of these things are going to find an intersection with the Cloud and as a company over time we are looking at each one of these opportunities to try to figure out what do these devices and what do these ridges really mean when you move to the Cloud?  Example, so when you talk about storage there is BBR that you can actually provide directly into the Cloud. When you are talking about storage again, there is file sync ensured, there is storage as a service that potentially customers are looking for.  When you are talking about servers of virtual machines many of these SMB customers and thus the MSPs are looking for, hey how about infrastructures and servers; is that something that we can provide to our customers?  When you are talking about desktops VDI is going to happen over time and VDI is all about having something - - a server that is running in the Cloud and using VDI to go over that experience to the users within the SMB. When you are talking about access points, at the end of the day, even when everything moves to the Cloud you are still going to have these routers; you are still going to have these switches, which is going to be your pipe to the Cloud.

And there is again an opportunity for us to go and figure out, how do we get more information, how do we get bandwidth information from these routers and provide that to our MSP partners so they can provide to their SMBs?  On the monitoring side how do we extend the monitoring of the application as well as bring those endpoints to the Cloud.  But the main point…and - - and the summary of everything that I try to say is that Cloud is really an evolution.  It’s an evolution; it’s not a revolution and our role as Continuum is to figure out how we can support our channel partners as their customers look to move to the Cloud.

And we want to provide them a path, a pace and a choice. Many of the MSPs are going to move at different pace. Some are going to be slower to adopt Cloud.  Some are going to be faster at adopting Cloud, because their customer base is different. But our job is to take a look at everything I just talked about and figure out how do we provide a path and choice such that when they go to their customers, if somebody wants to buy something on premise, we provide them that solution.  And if their customers want to provide them something in the Cloud we can.

SCOTT: So if I am an MSP should I be excited about this opportunity or afraid that this is going to take away what is normally a revenue stream for me?

PAIMAN: I think just like many of these evolutions that happen, it does happen; it’s the same as voice over IP. Voice over IP happened. Many of the customer - - many of the channel partners were, “No it’s not going to happen.” I think you have to realize that this is a market trend that’s going to happen.  You need to believe in it.  You need to adopt it.  You have to figure out how do you work with that market trend and continue to be - - to remain relevant and that’s what we are here for; taking a look at all these things that are happening in the Cloud and bring relevant product to the market for these MSP customers.

SCOTT: Yeah.  From what you are saying, it sounds like that the role that we are playing with our MSPs is a similar role that our MSPs play with their clients and that is, is that we know that our MSPs can’t handle everything. We try to be their trusted advisor. We try to give them the turnkey opportunities to be flexible and grow as they need it, depending upon what they have to do, what their shop is like.  But then that is the same configuration they have with their clients.

PAIMAN: Absolutely.  I - - I think if I had to maybe summarize it, our goal is we want to make sure that the MSPs continue to remain relevant, whether it’s within the enterprise, on premise or in the Cloud and we are going to provide them tools and products over time.  And they are going to hear about that a little bit more over the next weeks that they can continue to be relevant.

SCOTT: Yeah.  And as a segue to that, we are in fact going to have Dee Zepf, our VP of Products and Technical Services on in a couple of weeks to follow up on this conversation.  I certainly learned a lot.  The audience has learned. Are they still there?

AUDIENCE: [Applause].

SCOTT: They are still with us. But it is an educational process at this stage about what our MSPs need to learn themselves, but I think also educate their –

 PAIMAN: Absolutely.

SCOTT: Right?

PAIMAN: That’s right.

SCOTT: Become that trusted advisor.

PAIMAN: That’s right. 

SCOTT: -- in that sense. Before we go away, I wanted to mention that there is a conference coming up, ITEX is coming up, the office equipment conference March 11-13 in Las Vegas and a group that we work with quite closely, the Growth Achievement Partners Chris Ryan and Mitch Morgan are going to be there.  They were actually recently on MSP TV with Mark Connolly.  And there is a link on this page here that you can watch that show as well. Obviously the office equipment channel is changing tremendously.  They are at a point where they have - - they are in the network, they understand what is going on, they understand the Capex portion of how that business model works.  And so actually GAP is presenting.  You can see the date here below.  They will be on March 13th and they will be talking about managed service acquisitions and real world case studies.  They help a lot of their clients, their partners understand the merger opportunities that are going on, whether it’s an office equipment deal or buying an MSP or vice versa; trying to get into each other’s market.  And then our CEO Michael George is going to be presenting as well on the 12th and he’ll be joined by GAP and the discussion of that panel is how to accelerate profitable growth in managed IT and Cloud services with a proven business model.  So it feels like it is all coming together no matter what channel you are in, no matter where you are; you are going to be part of it.  And so we hope that maybe you make it to Las Vegas but check out some of the links and the connections here. Thanks for joining us.  There will be more shows coming along and come back and see us. Thank you.

AUDIENCE: [Applause].

[End]

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