Next-Generation Cloud Managed Services: A Full Lifecycle Support Engagement
By Bappaditya Dutta, Global Tech Lead – AWS MSP Program
The traditional managed services model is increasingly giving way to the next-generation managed services model.
Today, the shift from on-premises data centers to the cloud has opened new doors for managed service providers (MSPs) to transform themselves as next-gen MSPs to create high-value solutions and uniquely position themselves as trusted advisors to their customers through full lifecycle support offerings.
MSPs are no longer just concerned with operations and “keeping the lights on.” Next-generation (next-gen) MSPs are full life cycle support providers focusing on consulting, professional services, managed operations, and continuous optimization.
In this post, I will describe the evolution of managed services in the cloud and what a next-gen MSP looks like. I’ll also discuss creating a cloud center of excellence (CCoE) to adapt the way you operate and provide services to your customers, and how the AWS Managed Service Provider Partner Program can help your business achieve those goals.
Evolution of Cloud Managed Services
The shift from on premises to cloud has created new paradigms for MSPs. Traditional managed services address break-fix issues, but with cloud the role of an MSP has now evolved into proactive and predictive managed services.
Gone are the days of monitoring fixed thresholds in static environments. We are now in an era of dynamic, highly scalable environments with monitoring tools that leverage artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and predictive analytics to help understand a customer’s cloud environment and detect anomalies before performance is impacted.
Traditionally, MSPs focused primarily on building and running IT infrastructures. Now, MSPs are expected to be full-stack players, and their focus has shifted to include applications. While traditional managed services service-level agreements (SLAs) focused on the performance of hardware and infrastructure, capacity management, data accessibility, and incident management, next-gen MSPs are now able to create SLAs based on performance of the applications and business outcomes which are best aligned with meeting the ultimate needs of end customers.
Security is a major focus and is no longer a one-time or reactive process—addressing external and internal threats to business operations has made security a matter of continuous compliance. Organizations need to address cloud security as part of their digital transformation strategy, and many are heavily depending on MSPs to recommend ways to help defend against cyberattacks.
In addition, change management has traditionally centered on manual processes that were both time- and resource-intensive. But now, with DevOps tools and practices MSPs can continually assess, implement, automate, manage, and track changes in exponentially faster timeframes.
What is a Next-Gen AWS MSP?
Traditional MSPs provide many services to their customers, including operational management, technical support and maintenance, solution monitoring, backup and recovery planning, compliance management, configuration services, and measurement and reporting support.
These services might not be enough for customers that are rapidly adopting cloud platforms. Today, customers want more comprehensive cloud offerings from an MSP who they can view as a strategic advisory partner.
In addition to the services traditionally offered, customers also expect MSPs to provide a more holistic approach to their transformation journey. This could include a business case for cloud migration, a detailed hybrid cloud strategy and roadmap, cost and performance optimization plans, data management, custom application development and integration, optimization and modernization for legacy applications, and even solutions customized for specific industries.
As they transform their business with cloud, customers are looking for MSPs who can help them adapt to the ever-changing cloud landscape, streamline IT processes to improve productivity, automate to reduce costs and improve availability, and innovate to add value over time.
The next-gen MSP is here to address those needs.
Next-gen MSPs are building long-term and sustainable managed services solutions for their customers across the full engagement lifecycle—from planning and deployment to ongoing operations and optimization. Next-gen MSPs consider the domains and foundational capabilities from the AWS cloud transformation value chain to develop solutions that help customers realize their desired business outcomes.
Figure 1 – Cloud transformation value chain.
Building Next-Gen Offerings to Meet Customer Needs
A truly next-gen managed services solution addresses customer needs at every stage of their cloud journey, including planning and design, building and migration, operation, and finally, continuous optimization.
Figure 2 – Full lifecycle engagement model.
For a managed services practice, it’s important to consider the evolving needs of your customers, and tailor your services to meet those needs and strategic business objectives.
By improving operational excellence through automation and tooling, and using that knowledge to drive new customer acquisitions, you can keep your managed services flywheel moving.
Figure 3 – Managed Services flywheel.
Plan and Design
Many IT organizations want to leverage the agility, flexibility, performance, and scalability of public cloud services to help them transform their business and respond to rapidly changing and unpredictable conditions. To ensure they are optimizing their cloud journey from day one, it helps to have an expert partner to guide them.
Next-gen MSPs can help IT organizations put together a forward-thinking cloud strategy aligned with their business needs.
When it comes to planning, next-gen MSPs help customers assess their current state and cloud readiness. In addition, they can help customers depict their ideal IT environment and define the gaps between those current and desired states.
Next-gen MSPs are also well-positioned to provide vast benefits when it comes to designing those planned cloud environments. Once they have conducted the gap analysis, next-gen MSPs help develop a holistic cloud strategy that aligns the customer’s business goals with their IT realities.
As part of the planning and designing phase, next-gen MSPs should be equipped to handle:
- Technology assessments
- Vision, process, and goal alignment
- Architecture design
- Application modernization planning
- Workload mapping
- Roadmap development
- Migration strategy
- Governance framework development
- Regulatory and compliance consulting
Build and Migrate
Next-gen MSPs work with their customers to build secure, scalable, cost-effective cloud platforms and accelerate migration in repeatable and scalable ways.
At a time when many organizations are rushing to move applications to the cloud, they may have started to accumulate “technical debt”– the consequence that results in prioritizing speed or release over well-designed code. A good migration plan needs to account for this and take aggressive steps to reduce technical debt, or customers may suffer from the same inefficiencies that existed in their on-premises systems after their move to the cloud.
Working with next-gen MSPs, customers can benefit from assistance and expertise at each stage of the three-phase migration process. Next-gen MSPs can help assess the customer’s cloud readiness and create a business case for migration. They can address any gaps, with a focus on building a baseline environment and driving operational readiness.
Finally, next-gen MSPs can modernize applications to meet their customers’ desired business outcomes.
Run and Operate
Many businesses have realized that a move to the cloud can help them achieve more rapid innovation, greater business agility, better cost optimization, and increased scalability. A successful cloud migration also streamlines critical IT processes and simplifies application management.
Next-gen MSPs can help customers design a robust operating model that capitalizes on potential cloud benefits and provides optimal outcomes based on the customer’s desired state.
In general, next-gen MSPs consider the following activities during the “run and operate” stage:
- Infrastructure management: Provision cloud environments and platforms, proactively manage and adhere to agreed service levels.
- Application and business operations: Perform the day-to-day application or business operations aligned with business processes and use cases.
- Security and compliance management: Provide support according to local regulations, industry best practices and “security-by-design principles.”
- Change management: Manage changes to support delivery of value to customers through a well-established change management process.
- Release management: Perform release management to gain features, address issues, and remain compliant with governance.
- Incident and problem management: Provide incident and problem management support to recover systems to normal levels and permanently address the root causes of those incidents.
- Automation and DevOps: Provide technology and tools that perform tasks with less human assistance and drive faster business values.
- Monitoring and observability: Monitor infrastructure and workload events and take appropriate proactive actions through AI/ML-driven tools and automations.
- Application development and maintenance: Provide development, maintenance, and operational support for business applications.
Cloud optimization is the process of selecting and assigning the right resources to a workload or applications. When workload performance, security and compliance, and cost are correctly and continually balanced against the best-fit infrastructure in real time, businesses can achieve optimal efficiency and cloud benefits.
Next-gen MSPs can create a cloud optimization strategy designed to help ensure that migration to the cloud pays off in both the near and long term for their customers. To accomplish this, next-gen MSPs should provide continuous optimization services for customer cloud environments, prioritizing based on what strategies can deliver the biggest impact with the least effort.
How a Cloud Center of Excellence Can Help
To help customers achieve their desired business outcomes through cloud adoption, next-gen MSPs must have the right skills and structure in place. One efficient way to achieve this is by setting up a cloud center of excellence (CCoE).
A CCoE can give MSPs a big advantage in building a successful and profitable next-gen managed services practice. A CCoE is a team of cross functional people dedicated to creating, implementing and ensuring cloud best practices, frameworks, and governance across the organization. This team becomes a central force through which you can evolve the way you operate to help improve outcomes and managing risks.
This dedicated cross functional team shapes and supports the direction of the MSP practice across the following domains:
- Cloud adoption and retooling: Promoting the adoption of cloud services across the organization, and developing reusable tools and artifacts.
- Training and change management: Coordinating cloud learnings and embracing a change-as-normal mindset.
- Governance: Setting up initial governance processes and best practices to help keep workloads in line with cloud architecture framework and policies.
- Strategy: Aligning cloud offerings with the organizational business strategy.
- Operations and automation: Standardizing and automating commonly needed platform components and solutions over time.
As next-gen MSPs strive to be seen by their customers as trusted business partners, having a CCoE to support that goal can be a critical component of their overall strategy. A well-designed and thoughtfully implemented CCoE can accelerate the modernization of your managed services practice while also helping to jump start business transformation for your customers.
The AWS Managed Service Provider Partner Program
To help the MSPs in the cloud industry, AWS developed the AWS Managed Service Provider Partner Program. This program is designed to provide a set of prescriptive and tested best practices to help MSPs develop next-gen managed services offerings and capabilities aligned with tomorrow’s needs.
As part of the program, MSPs work with their designated AWS Partner Manager and Partner Solutions Architect to create a defined managed services offering aligned to best practices. Through helpful reviews, gap analysis, and workshops, members of the program prepare for a third-party independent audit.
Once MSPs pass the audit, they are awarded the AWS MSP designation badge, which they can use to differentiate their offerings to customers. Customers look for these validated partners when searching for help managing their cloud solutions.
Working with validated AWS MSP Partners, customers can feel confident that they are engaging with organizations that have appropriate cloud expertise and experience to guide them on their transformation journey.
The growth of cloud and managed services presents MSPs with a unique opportunity to grow their business. In this era of change, MSPs must look beyond traditional cloud operations and infrastructure, and consider adding enhanced services to their portfolio to help guide customers through every stage of their cloud journey.
The next-gen MSP that offers a full suite of cloud management and consulting services, from planning to operations deployment and through to optimization, will be able to deliver more value to their customers as a business partner in growth.
By expanding your services and building an in-house cloud center of excellence (CCoE), and with guidance from the AWS MSP Partner Program, you can evolve your MSP business from the outdated, traditional framework into one that is truly next-generation.
To learn more, reach out to the AWS MSP Partner Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.