About MSP’s and Lego

30/01/2019 Tom De Blende

If you spent your youth watching the A-Team, Knight Rider and Chips on TV like me, chances are that you have worked in an IT world without cloud. And if you have had the good fortune of earning a living at a managed infrastructure provider, you have been a first hand witness of how things have shifted in the industry.

Most often traditional managed services providers offered managed servers. There were some differences in how high in the stack your provider would support you (OS only, some SQL and AD or even full application support), but other than that you were given a server with an OS and what we call the Big Three of Managed Services: monitoring, patching and backups. The provider would also manage the underlying network infrastructure and storage boxes. But that was that. Infrastructure engineers would build your environment, hand it over to you, and you could start deploying your applications.

That infrastructure could be three things. Either dedicated physical servers, a multi-tenant virtualization platform or something that was called private cloud. It wasn’t really cloud, as it didn’t scale. It was just your own virtualization platform. A point also made by Bart Van Hecke: here.

Fast forward some years, and with public cloud, a big shift has been made. Managed infrastructure is no longer the be all and end all of a managed services company. Not only is the whole hardware layer that an MSP used to manage now managed by AWS, but a plethora of new services has been released. The result is that an MSP is now driven higher up in the stack. There is less to manage on the hardware side of things, but much more on PaaS and FaaS level.

AWS provides you with building blocks much like Lego. Without proper guidance though, the result might not always be what you expected.

A customer now gets a bucket full of Lego, and can start building. You can build beautiful things with Lego. But without any guidelines or help, you can also create the next Frankenstein. So what we see now is that unlike the early days where an engineer would throw a server over the fence and let the developer or application manager do his or her thing, it’s a journey. A journey where an engineer and a developer build things together. You’ve probably heard of this pretty thing called DevOps. It’s much more than just a buzz word. It quickly became the only proper way to move forward and work with the new technologies that AWS kept throwing at us.

As a next generation MSP, Cloudar also has a very solid consultancy business. And that is a match made in heaven. Not only do we take the burden of managing your servers out of your hands, but our skilled engineers help you in deploying your applications in a Well Architected Way. And the virtual infrastructure that comes from that, and is kept in version controlled CloudFormation or Terraform, will also be managed by us. And that is more than just an EC2 instance. It could be a PaaS platform like Beanstalk, ECS or EKS or it could be a FaaS Serverless platform based on Step Functions, Lambda, DynamoDB and API Gateway. Because in the end, developers want to develop and build new things, but they don’t want to manage and nurture what they have built 24*7.

So what we have seen now over the years during many customer engagements, is that we not only manage environments for customers, but we also teach customers how to work better. How to build efficient development pipelines instead of using FTP scripts and a local git to deploy to a static server. How to work together as dev and ops. And in return customers make us better, as they keep coming up with new requirements and new challenges.

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