The rise of software-defined everything should be a boon to MSPs

Posted by Mike Vizard on Jun 4, 2015 12:27:00 PM

HP logoThanks to the emergence of open application programming interfaces, the cloud, and software-defined everything, there’s never have been a better time to be an MSP.

Just about everywhere IT service providers turn these days, vendors are using RESTful APIs that turn vast amounts of IT infrastructure into programmable code. Case in point is Hewlett-Packard. This week at the HP Discover 2015 conference, HP announced that going forward it will surround its entire portfolio of IT infrastructure with a set of open programmable APIs in order to facilitate the coming of composable IT infrastructure.

Consolidating IT infrastructures

That move is only the latest in a series of vendor efforts to create software-defined data centers where every piece of physical and virtual infrastructure can be remotely managed using programming tools. The end goal is to make it dramatically less costly to manage IT at scale. Rather than having to rely on command line interfaces (CLIs) to manually configure each individual device, there will soon come a day when it will be feasible to treat entire stacks of applications and associated infrastructure as if they were one logical entity.

As promising a development as that might be for MSPs, the cost of actually setting up a network operations center (NOC) is also falling, thanks to the cloud. While MSPs have traditionally built their own NOCs from the ground up, the emergence of the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform is making it less costly from a capital investment perspective for solution providers across the channel to become an MSP.

Long term, it might still be less expensive to build out an NOC than to rely on a cloud service. But from a cost-of-entry perspective, IaaS platforms make it easier for new MSPs to launch their initial service. At the same time, existing MSPs can make use of public clouds to test out the business viability of a new service without having to make upfront commitments to acquiring the IT infrastructure needed to run it.

MSPs need to master new IT skill sets

Meanwhile, the increased complexity of IT environments has lead to a decrease in the resistance within internal IT organizations to MSPs in general. Many of the more enlightened internal IT organizations have at least come to the conclusion that they simply can’t do everything themselves.

In fact, senior managers of many businesses are forcing that issue by limiting the amount of additional headcount that can be added to the IT department. That doesn’t mean internal IT organizations are not hiring. It just means that the gap between what they can handle and the services they need to support continues to widen.

None of this means there aren’t challenges associated with being an MSP. As the cost of becoming an MSP drops, the amount of overall competition across the entire space continues to rise. In order to compete, MSPs have to increase their investments in IT automation, which becomes easier to do as the overall IT environment becomes more programmable. It’s just that mastering software-defined everything requires MSPs to master new IT skill sets.

Put it all together, however, and the positives of being an MSP are clearly starting to far outweigh the negatives.

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Photo Credit: Don DeBold on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license

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