As enterprises formulate plans for their future IT needs, one trend is clear: cloud will be front and center. According to Gartner, the worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 21% in 2018 to total $186.4 billion, up from $153.5 billion in 2017, with the largest chunk of the revenue making its way to the public cloud.
What is less clear to these same enterprises is how they will choose to manage their new cloud-focused environment.
Some will manage it themselves. Others will bring on a managed service provider (MSP) with specialized talents to help them navigate the complexities imposed by the quantum shift to a particular type of cloud environment. A third group will engage with a managed service provider focused on a broader mission: managing hybrid environments which include resources in data centers, private clouds and/or one or more public clouds.
How much is riding on an enterprise’s decision? At the very least, matching the right cloud management strategy to the right organization will reduce the turmoil connected to what is typically a stressful IT transformation. For most, finding the right fit goes a long way toward achieving an organization’s ongoing success.
Before we discuss management options and evaluate the elements to consider in making cloud management decisions, let us look briefly at what kinds of problems a misfitting strategy can bring:
- An increase in operational risk. If something goes wrong with a cloud implementation, it impacts the organization’s ability to execute on revenue-generating operations, such as sales and supply chain management.
- An increase in security risk. Running applications in the public cloud, the attack surface is larger. If the cloud is built without proper security, this can create an open door for attackers.
- A decrease in value. Not having the right support can make moving to the cloud cost more money and take more time than you estimated in your value analysis.
In today’s competitive business environment, these are problems enterprises do not want. Companies therefore need to consult with the right experts to make sure their cloud implementations go as smoothly as possible and position their businesses to meet future IT needs.
Cloud Management Options
Some organizations prefer to manage their cloud environments themselves. This can work, in certain situations. Some large companies insist on going it alone in order to retain control over their environments and their investments. Others will start with an MSP to get the necessary tools, training and methodology, and then manage the environment themselves. However, these arrangements usually take longer to achieve the value the customer wants. Practice makes perfect. An organization embarking on a cloud implementation for the very first time is taking a big chance learning on the job.
Working With a Niche Managed Service Provider
As more enterprises move to the public cloud, many are engaging with service providers who specialize in migrating to and managing implementations by one of the three main cloud providers: AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform. These MSPs usually have tooling and expertise in only one of the cloud choices – but what if the implementation involves more than one cloud, or resources in a data center environment? The majority of MSPs are still “boutique” cloud service providers, and many do not have the capabilities to service multiple IT environments.
Working With an Enterprise Managed Service Provider
Experts roundly agree that the future will be dominated by hybrid IT environments, with hybrid cloud spending expected to nearly triple from 2016 to 2021. Data center environments will not go away entirely, housing workloads it makes no sense to move, while the rest of the workloads move to public and private clouds. This means future environments will become more complex, requiring help from MSPs who possess a broad range of skills, resources and management models.
To guide enterprises in the future, MSPs will have to branch out in a number of ways. They will need to manage on- and off-prem environments, multiple public clouds and enterprise-grade implementations. They will need to exercise flexible processes and methodologies. And they will need to pay close attention to compliance, cost controls and global IT demands.
Here are five elements enterprises should look for in a cloud MSP:
- A Hybrid Model, Applied Consistently
If an MSP proposes multiple models for multiple private clouds, it will be very difficult to unify those operating models. Managing workloads in different clouds – and in data centers – in the same way reduces the risk of opening gaps that create security holes.
- A Focus on Enterprise-Level Concerns, in All Places
An approach like CTP’s Minimum Viable Cloud (MVC) methodology gives an MSP the ability to build environments that are fully enterprise-enabled out of the gate. If an MSP offers low-ball pricing to stand up a simple environment to migrate particular workloads into, that environment will not be designed for enterprise-class workloads. Its security, auditability and compliance functions will not be operable at the level an enterprise needs.
- A Commitment to Flexibility
Enterprises may have similar needs, but every implementation is different. You want your MSP to be consistent, but it should not be so locked down it cannot adapt to changing requirements. An enterprise may make tooling choices that have to be incorporated into the environment. If the MSP can accommodate the request, it should. If the customer wants to use its own tools, the MSP should have the resources to bring those tools into the automation framework, so they are not being hand-deployed every time they are used. You do not want unlimited variability, but a rigid, cookie-cutter approach is never successful.
- An Enterprise-Class Focus on Bedrock Issues
At the enterprise level, you cannot afford to miss a beat on compliance and security. Both have to be in a state where they are being monitored regularly and efficiently. Problems can crop up quickly in the public cloud; environments get stood up and killed off all the time. An MSP cannot just show up and do an audit; it has to be managing all the time. If security and compliance are not in a good place, you will be flying blind.
- Cost Management Expertise in a Hybrid Environment
Optimizing costs in a single cloud is a straight forward challenge. Doing it in multiple environments is far more complicated and requires an enterprise-grade level of service. Enterprises care about multiple environments. If each environment is being managed individually for cost, the results will not be optimal.
When cloud was bursting on the scene, MSPs quickly tried to align with users’ needs – providing services focused on a particular cloud or a particular type of implementation. That is not enough anymore. Cloud environments are becoming more complex, and data centers still play a role. MSPs need to offer the right mix of services to meet users’ expectations, now and in the future, in a fully hybrid cloud model.
Earlier this summer, we announced HPE GreenLake Hybrid Cloud, a comprehensive offering to help simplify our clients’ hybrid cloud environments. This solution provides leading edge operational and management services to span and unify your public and on-premise cloud models.
Regardless of which MSP solution is best for your organization, it needs to provide an integrated story and get you where you need to go by offering a targeted blend of advisory and professional services.
Learn more about Greenlake Hybrid Cloud here.