Cloud for the MSP: What’s getting in the way?
For MSPs, adopting a cloud business model is a little bit like building your own swimming pool in the back garden: we all want one, but it is serious hassle and a tad expensive. So we stick with the neighbourhood public pool or the one at our local gym. This option is handy. You use it when you want to, it’s generally pay-as-you-go and it’s not your job to keep the thing clean.
That said, in a perfect world, any sane person still occasionally dreams of the backyard dipping ground. Who wouldn’t want a pool set at their favoured temperature, with no unwelcome splashes or stray Frisbees spoiling the experience? Seems like a safer option, too. However, without constant care and attention, this private aquatic paradise can rapidly turn into a large bath of floating hell. Oh, and almost forgot – you would usually need to be raking in high 6 figure sums to afford such luxury in the first place!
What we all would really like is the private pool without the upfront expense of building it or the costly grief of daily maintenance. The problem, of course, is that this preference doesn’t exist in the known physical universe; so keep dreaming. As a result, the status quo remains.
This above scenario will ring a few bells with MSPs and VARs who are looking to shift their business models to the cloud. Their alternatives are stark: build the infrastructure yourself (private cloud) or use somebody else’s (public cloud).
Doing what it does best, the IT industry has gone and complicated matters further by offering service providers another choice. It is called “hybrid”. Going back to the swimming pool analogy for a second, hybrid is basically the cloud computing equivalent of keeping your own pool and holding a membership for the 25 metres in one’s locality/gym. While those in vendor-land rejoice in evangelical unison about this “promised land”, the approach – in reality – is potentially as daft as it sounds in the preceding sentence.
What MSPs want from this cloud stuff is actually quite straightforward (er, maybe you just need to be an MSP to see it). They want:
- Less investment risk (a bit of public)
- Something stable and simple to use (a slice of private)
- A high degree of flexibility (another bit of public)
- Proper levels of support (and another slice of private, please)
Until somebody comes along with a credible package that delivers this wish list to MSPs, the cloud dream will remain unrealised. Trapped between two (three, if you include “hybrid”) imperfect options, service providers will never fully commit to a new commercial model that fails to offer a complete answer for them and ultimately, their customers.
For now, it looks like MSPs will inevitably opt for swimming in their existing pool rather than risk drowning in another. Questionable punning aside, you know it’s true.