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Tomorrow’s Cloud Services Provider

30 Mar 2016 by Howard M Cohen

There are some who suggest today’s Cloud Services Provider (CSP) may end up being known as tomorrow’s service provider­ — because cloud will be all that there is in IT. Given how the definition of cloud has been kicked around in the industry, it would be best to start by defining the term for the purposes of this discussion about future cloud opportunities.

Cloud and the integrator

It’s always tempting to offer up the original NIST definition of cloud computing in discussions like this. Indeed, if you haven’t read it, now would be as good a time as any. It’s a document that should be known by everyone in our industry.

The definition of cloud as we use it in the industry today is perhaps best illustrated by tracking it in the context of our roles as “integrators.”

Most reading this probably consider themselves to some extent to be integrators. You may be a system integrator, network integrator or some other kind of integrator. In the end, though, the definition of integrator has always meant taking IT hardware from various vendors, combining it with software from various providers and creating superior solutions for customers. These solutions were almost always built on the customers’ premises. This definition of “integrator” lasted for many years.

At some point, some enterprising integrators realized the services they were installing on customers’ premises could be more effectively deployed from their own data center, where they could manage it more closely. Even better, they could deliver those services not just to one customer, but to many, all using the same infrastructure in their own data center. Each customer, then, could pay a fraction of the cost of operations and still get better quality of service. They could even pay more than their fair share of the cost of operations.

Early services included Remote Back-Up, connected first using expensive leased lines and then shifted to the Internet to transport customer data to their own data center for replication. Customers didn’t have to rotate tapes anymore. Responsibility shifted to the provider.

Other similar remote services, like anti-spam, showed up. Now the filters could catch the nasty emails before they ever reached the customer’s data center. 

In part because these services seemed to come from thin air and also in part because technologists always depicted the Internet as a blob-shaped thing, somebody coined the term cloud computing for these remote services, and they proliferated. So every cloud is simply a data center delivering specialized services. There are many clouds and many special-purpose data centers.

This also changed the definition of integrator in an important way. Now integrators weren’t just combining hardware and software products, they were also including and integrating these cloud services.

As one door closes, another opens.

The biggest fear integrators and resellers had when first faced with the cloud was that it would reduce or eliminate hardware and software sales. They were correct.

Even today, a customer wishing to do so can simply buy client devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets or smartphones, and obtain all of their IT — from productivity software and communications, to line-of-business applications — as services. They don’t have to own a single server of their own.

Many Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have jumped on this opportunity to create their own cloud infrastructure and offer services directly. Others have aligned with large providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft or IBM to provide the services that weave customers together with their clouds. Some refer to the large providers as cloud service vendors, and to those who sell and provide supporting services as cloud service providers. It will take time to sort things out, but in the end it will not matter.

Tomorrow’s cloud services provider

What is important is that today’s managed service provider or services integrator who sees infrastructure products and attached services business diminishing needs to prepare and set a direction for the future. Just as customers turn to MSPs today to take responsibility for maximizing their return on information technology investments, they will turn to tomorrow’s CSP to optimize the way cloud services from data centers will talk to and work together. Interoperability will be a must, and the CSP will be the beneficiary of that, as long as the IPv6-based skills stack is available to manage a highly heterogeneous cloud environment.

Insight has been innovating cloud services for years and is here to help you plan and undertake your journey. Contact your Insight representative today at1.800.INSIGHT to begin the conversation.