Cloud management initiatives go off the rails for several reasons, Gartner reports. For one, organizations may try to emulate the on-premises environment in the cloud workload, rather than rewriting code to make applications and tools cloud native. Another issue is failing to properly architect and implement an underlying cloud “landing zone” that addresses performance, costs, security, and compliance. In addition, organizations may overlook indirect project overhead and ancillary costs. Gartner also points out that cloud management requires a realignment of teams and a better understanding of system dependencies.
For channel pros, all of this is both bad news and good news. More advanced and highly complex cloud infrastructure means that MSPs must constantly upgrade their knowledge and apply different cloud management methodologies than in the Cloud 1.0 world. But the opportunities are significant—and growing. A 2023 State of IT report from Spiceworks and Ziff-Davis points out that managed services spending now accounts for 18% of IT budgets, up from 15% in 2020.
Says Carl Mazzanti, CEO of eMazzanti Technologies, a Hoboken, N.J.-based MSP: “Channel pros can play a crucial role in guiding companies toward improved decision making and better cloud management frameworks. But they have to know their stuff and help customers unlock the value.”
Focusing on Optimization
Guiding clients through the labyrinth of decisions and choices—and arriving at better governance and a more elegant cloud management framework—is all about a focus on cloud optimization. Kahn says that a starting point for MSPs is to recognize that a cloud 2.0 strategy must address techniques, tools, and processes that revolve around analyzing, monitoring, and continually adjusting to a highly dynamic and fast-changing IT and business environment.
A combination of methodology and tools is at the center of success. For instance, a valuable resource for establishing and overseeing a cloud management framework is a fairly detailed onboarding questionnaire, Kahn says. “It’s important to understand in a detailed way what a company is doing, where it is going, and what challenges it is facing.” What’s more, he adds, “A survey isn’t merely a tool for getting things right; it’s an opportunity for an MSP to establish a more strategic consulting role and even upsell products and services.”
Kahn also conducts quarterly business reviews that are designed to gauge whether the client is drifting away from a core cloud strategy.
Mazzanti engages in a similar tact, relying on what he describes as “a multidimensional audit process.” Combined with a dashboard and tools that monitor and analyze cloud resources—typically a mix of cloud vendor software and tools from third-party providers—he can achieve a level of visibility that leads to good decision making.
For his part, Ploessel likes to use a dashboard to track as many as 50 to 100 key performance factors that directly map to cloud performance.
Using these methods, it’s possible to identify situations where a company isn’t utilizing resources efficiently—or when it is buying licenses that it doesn’t need. “There are many cases where it’s possible to change, consolidate, or redesign cloud resources to produce more effective results and outcomes,” Khan points out. For example, an organization can dial up and dial down virtual machines dynamically, and spot situations where utilization and licensing are off-kilter. In one case, Ploessel says, “We saved a company $60,000 annually because they had premium licenses that weren’t necessary.”
Another valuable tool, Kahn says, is a basic monitoring system that generates alerts when a client begins deviating from past cloud usage. “If we have a customer that spends $4,000 a month, we can establish a 70% or 80% threshold for an alert,” he explains. “If we receive a notification halfway through the billing cycle that the customer has reached this level of resource consumption, we can create a ticket, investigate the matter, and approach a solution in a more proactive and cost-effective way.”