The world around us is changing faster than ever – a global pandemic, the switch to remote working and subscription services increasingly becoming norm. For Managed Service Providers (MSPs) this also extends to your customer base and the way they are consuming their IT services. Your customers’ needs and wants are now evolving at an accelerated pace, and with you as their partner providing all or part of their IT services, you could be caught out – especially when it comes to cloud services and Microsoft Azure usage.
For MSPs, the cloud and Azure represents an enormous challenge and a significant shift in skills and service; but with change also comes opportunity. To help MSPs, we’ve put together a list of four key Azure trends to look out for in 2021.
Number 1 - Azure and cloud are accelerating fast.
Growth in cloud is as high as it has ever been, with customers reporting that Azure cloud and related Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) spend and adoption is their top priority. In fact, customers are expected to either slightly or significantly increase in this area by 61%* in 2021 and beyond.
Part of this has been fuelled by the global pandemic and the change of working habits and organisations have now matured their willingness to use cloud services, so much so that digital transformation pace in the cloud has increased by as much as 40%*
For MSPs, this means your customers will start moving away from a pure traditional on-premises datacentre arrangement and will likely start embracing the cloud with a hybrid set up. This means as an MSP you will need to have the skills and knowhow to setup, manage and use Azure services that will be consumed by your customer-base, likely starting with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), in order to keep up with customer demand. And with an unrelenting shortage of technical cloud skills in the market at the moment, skilling up existing teams should be considered an equal priority to expanding your technical pool. Equally, identifying and implementing smart platforms such as IA-Cloud will ensure you’re focussing those new skills on providing real value to your customers rather than mundane, but necessary, background tasks.
Number 2 - Reduction in datacentres, increase in cloud adoption.
With the acceleration of cloud adoption and remote working, organisations are re-evaluating their on-premises data centre footprint. As remote working becomes more commonplace many are considering if their expensive real estate, one of the highest costs for most businesses, is really necessary anymore. Many are looking to reduce or eliminate their datacentre capability over 2021 and beyond, in fact only 10%* of organisations are looking at increasing datacentre usage, where over 60%* are looking to reduce or eliminate it in some form.
For MSPs, this means that cloud migration and adoption strategies are key to future business and will need to be established and understood should your customers start on this journey - if they haven’t already. Not every customer will be at the same point in their cloud or digital transformation journey, but MSPs should anticipate this and have the capability and tools available to help their customers. Leveraging tools and platforms such as IA-Cloud can help MSPs to rapidly design and implement best practice cloud architectures and landing zones, as well accelerating the migration of existing workloads and automating the management of these going forward.
Number 3 - Manual reactive processes are a concern
For most, moving to the cloud means increased flexibility, instant scalability and better performance for their workloads with instant access to nascent technologies which boost productivity and end user experience. For all of this to happen, changes within cloud environments need to be fast and nimble.
Organisations have therefore highlighted that manual, reactive style processes and procedures are now a big concern, and the advantages of cloud are hindered by manually performing actions when requested, as opposed to automating actions and procedures either ahead of time or when needed, without any human interaction.
Automation is now seen as the biggest area of change within cloud and digital transformation, with over a 60%* expected increase from customers in terms of focus and spend overall in this cloud area.
This is a big concern for MSPs who will not want to be seen to be hindering a customer’s cloud expansion due to manual reactive processes. MSPs must show that they’re cloud-capable and are enabling customers, not installing blockers. In the same vein, they must also demonstrate that they have the necessary expertise and tools to assist customers in introducing automation and transforming their experience in to a more proactive one.
Think of it this way – on average a cloud infrastructure will double in size, resources and/or capability every 9 to 12 months. That kind of change and scaling cannot be hampered by delays waiting on agents to be installed and for manual set up of VPNs or network configurations. This will reflect badly on the MSP and will almost certainly result in lost business. This can be achieved through streamlined and efficient processes with some extra resources, but many MSPs are turning to cloud automation platforms to resolve these challenges and to allow them to provide a better, more proactive service to customers without increasing cost.
Number 4 - Wastage & Quality data
With the cloud comes new opportunities but also a few new challenges, and one of the biggest challenges for MSPs is helping customers control costs through optimisation strategies. Cost control is markedly different to on-premises, with the cloud and Azure built on an operational cost model, where you’re paying for what you use (usually per hour).
Where this can potentially become a headache is where resources are either not used but still active or resources are allocated more compute than they require. Another term used for this is wastage spend, and experts put the cost of this wastage at 30%* of total spend at least.
The next trick here is how to examine exactly where this wastage is happening. How and where is the data needed to determine where changes need to occur? And with the cloud changing so rapidly how do we get access to data that is accurate, not out of date, and continue to have access to quality data as we’ll likely need to keep revisiting this periodically?
In fact, getting access to quality up-to-date data that can provide easy to understand insights is another challenge for 2021 and beyond*.
MSPs need to have a plan and a strategy for how they will proactively and easily demonstrate optimisation decisions for their customers cloud environments and perform this with their customers not just once, but on a regular basis.
The cloud changes too fast and customers environments grow too quickly for this to be a one-time activity. When MSPs are planning this out, the customer requirements to resolve are:
- Near real-time data that is easy to understand
- Data that helps speed up change.
- Quality of data that provides consensus
- An automated, repeatable, continuous process
The cloud has accelerated to near unprecedented usage, and that looks to continue into 2021 and beyond. For Managed Service Providers, this means that now more than ever you will need to have plans and procedures in place as your customers look to you for help and assistance in making the transition to, and the continuing usage of the cloud and Azure. Whilst all of this is possible with some careful planning, reimaged processes and more heads, perhaps a more sensible and cost-effective approach is automation through platforms such as IA-Cloud. Your competitors are already doing it – maybe now is your time…
IA-Cloud is our automated management, monitoring and optimisation platform for Microsoft Azure workloads. IA-Cloud is unique having been designed from the ground up by an MSP, for MSPs. We understand the challenges, we understand the pitfalls and most importantly, we’ve understood how to resolve them.
IA-Cloud provides you and your customers easy to understand optimisation and performance analytics to avoid wastage and get the best cost vs. performance balance possible, as well as being able to scale automatically as the customer environment scales – all built on true automation, allowing your customers to get the best out of their cloud infrastructure.
There’s so much more to the tool, so why not find out more at https://www.ultima.com/ia-cloud