07/02/2017 Tom De Blende

Cloudar as a Next Generation MSP

Historically, Managed Service Providers (MSP) had the broad responsibility of taking care of customer environments from the bare metal up to the Operating System and sometimes the Application level. In the new world of Cloud Computing, things are changing at a rapid pace and responsibilities are shifting. Where the datacenter and physical layer of cloud computing are the sole responsibility of AWS, MSP’s are moving up in the stack and will focus on cloud security, consultancy, application level monitoring, cost control and high availability.

What can one expect from a (as AWS tends to call it) Next Generation MSP? It all starts with knowledge. An MSP has engineers that are both thoroughly trained and certified on AWS. At Cloudar we have a development track that makes sure all our engineers are AWS Certified. We not only have a high percentage of Associates, but also a good number of Professionals, and even one holding all five certificates. This creates an internal eco system, facilitated by Slack, where knowledge is shared and customer issues are quickly discussed and solved. Cloudar is an Advanced Consultancy Partner, with a broad network within AWS. 

Where automation was important in traditional managed hosting, it is vital in an AWS environment. And thanks to the broad range of API’s available on AWS, the sky is the limit. Now why is automation that important nowadays? I see three reasons. First in terms of cost. Build Once, Deploy Many. If you need to repeat a task, script it. It will be cheaper in the long run. Second, and this is often overlooked, in terms of security. A lot of security issues stem from human error. By scripting repeatable processes, and peer reviewing these scripts, the chances of creating unintentional security holes are greatly diminished. Third in terms of usability. When using proper source control and deployment tools, everyone can deploy new environments or applications with a click on the button. A next-gen MSP will apply all these skills to setup and manage your environment.

A traditional MSP was mostly concerned with threshold based monitoring. Are my servers still online, is my hardware healthy and are my disks not full? While some of these are still very relevant, monitoring will shift more towards application level monitoring. From uptime of servers to uptime of applications. At Cloudar, on top of traditional threshold bases monitoring, we offer Application Performance Monitoring and even Real User Monitoring. This way you not only know whether all components of your application are healthy, but also that the application itself works within expected boundaries. We have our standard set of monitoring tools to deal with this, but are also happy to assist you in using third party tools like Datadog or New Relic. You will get your own dashboard to check your environment health at any time.

It has never been easier to build highly available environments. In the old days, it took weeks if not months to setup multi-datacenter solutions. From ordering hardware, configuring global load balancing, storage replication, VMWare SRM… AWS has all infrastructural requirements built in. This means it has become second nature to always start from a high availability scenario with at least two Availability Zones in mind. From there on, a next-gen MSP will look at your workloads and determine what the best way is to run them in the cloud. In all this, Cloudar acts as your trusted partner, and determines what the best course of action is. This can range from a traditional lift and shift, over cloud optimized to a new cloud native deployment together with one of our application development partners.

Controlling costs is in the DNA of AWS, we made it our own to do the same. This means we will not only design the most cost effective environments for our customers, but also will continuously assess whether this is still the case during the lifetime of your setup. We do this on two ways. Primarily, we follow up on all new AWS announcements and will check what the impact can be for our customer base. A small example can be seen in a previous blog post: About AWS and Saving Money. If we see ways you can save money by using new services, we will let you know. Second through the use of Cloudcheckr. This tool will scan your environment and will make recommendations on downsizing instances, unused resources, buying RI’s and all other cost saving options.

As you can see, things are changing in MSP land. An MSP does not solely host your servers anymore. It is your partner in a cloud world that lives by principles and processes of DevOps. Cloudar is born in the cloud. Many of the changes traditional MSP’s need to make to stay on board, are in our DNA.

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