AWS Cloud Enterprise Strategy Blog

Don’t Let Traditional Managed Services Providers Hold Your Cloud Strategy Back

“You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” — Andre Gide

It’s hard for large organizations to keep up with the pace of technology evolution, and I’ve come to admire those who have repeatedly proven that they’re strong enough to survive. Companies like GE, Capital One, News Corp, and Netflix are committed to constantly reinventing themselves, and they’re increasingly turning to the cloud as a means to do so. More specifically, these companies — and the thousands of enterprises who share this common resolve — are using the cloud to offload much of the undifferentiated heavy lifting traditionally associated with enterprise IT so they can focus more resources on delivering value to their customers.

Constant reinvention isn’t easy, and most executives I speak to agree that it’s a journey that takes time and deliberate effort. This is true, regardless of what type of business you’re in, and I spend a lot of time trying to help both customers and managed services providers (MSPs) through this journey.

As I wrote in the Future of Managed Services in the Cloud, many MSPs are well out in front of this curve. 2nd Watch, Cloudreach, Accenture, Infosys, Wipro, REAN Cloud, 8K Miles, Bulletproof, Cloud Technology Partners, Logicworks, Minjar, and Rackspace are just a few of the MSPs who have committed to helping their customers reinvent their business using the cloud (click here for a complete list of validated AWS MSP Partners).

Unfortunately, however, many “traditional” MSPs continue to hold their customers back. Like many companies featured in Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” these traditional MSPs are spending more time protecting their existing revenue streams than helping their customers remain competitive.

I wasn’t terribly surprised to read a recent report from CompTIA in which 44% of the MSPs surveyed said they only support cloud services when asked to do so by their customer. I was, however, pretty surprised to receive a candid email from an executive at a large and well-known MSP that articulated his company’s position on cloud. As the executive concedes, some MSPs are spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) about the cloud to buy themselves time at the expense of their customers —

“The only way we can salvage our market share for now,” says the MSP executive, “is to fuel [fear] because the hard truth is that we simply do not have the arsenal to counter AWS’ dominance. More importantly, we constantly bombard these messages (vendor lock-in, security et al) with the operational executives that are still (a vast majority in large enterprises) stuck in the traditional IT thinking and their existence threatened by the cloud wave.”

The full (anonymized) version of the e-mail follows below —

Dear Mr.Orban,

I recently started following you on Medium after I stumbled upon your article on mass migrations. Earlier yesterday, I read your article on the myths about hybrid architecture. Thought would share my 2 cents on your “fear” of architecting applications to work on multi-cloud environments.

In my humble opinion, the fear is instilled by the major IT Managed Services Players (MSP) in a vain attempt to salvage their business. I must admit, one of those that’s drilling the need for architecting solutions to work on multi-cloud environment. As you aware, most MSPs have been quite late into the cloud game and still playing catch-up with AWS. The only way we can salvage our market share for now is to fuel these fears because the hard truth is that we simply do not have the arsenal to counter AWS’ dominance. More importantly, we constantly bombard these messages (vendor lock-in, security et al) with the operational executives that are still (a vast majority in large enterprises) stuck in the traditional IT thinking and their existence threatened by the cloud wave. Everybody knows that if you do not embrace cloud you simply die. So, to come around it, you simply introduce more complexities in the guise of simplifying IT!

The last decade has been about managed services and AWS is simply taking it away from the MSPs especially that’s been slow on uptake.Though I strongly believe that architecting applications for multi-cloud is an overkill and limits to the lowest common denominator, our only strategy for now (though slowly getting ineffective) is to continue to fuel these fears

Initially thought of posting this as a comment on Medium, but honesty on a public forum means shooting myself on the foot and hence the note to your email.

Looking forward to reading more of your wonderful insights

To be fair, I empathize with this executive’s perspective. Change is hard, and MSPs have to help hundreds of enterprises change while they change themselves. Change at this scale can be harder than it is for an enterprise that has fewer P&Ls to manage.

But it’s not impossible …

Logicworks started helping enterprises manage their IT environments long before cloud became mainstream, and it’s successfully transitioning its business at breakneck speed. In fact, it recently received a $135 million investment led by Pamplona Capital to accelerate this transition.

Kenneth Ziegler, Logicworks’ CEO, says —

“We disrupted our own business starting in 2012 because of two key reasons: 1) customers were increasingly asking for us to help them make sense of IaaS offerings and 2) by that point, AWS had become a superior technology platform, which meant we could build repeatable, scalable solutions around it to not only achieve the compliant and secure solutions our customers were looking for, but through our automation platform we could now exceed previous standards by reducing human error and providing programmatic enforcement of desired configurations.

The heavy lifting that we used to do manually as a traditional MSP has been replaced by managed services bots, which our clients subscribe to, and the DevOps expertise they have access to enables our customers to transform their business faster, regardless of where they are on their journey. The courage to stop defending our traditional IT install base has led to growth well beyond our initial expectations.”

Cloudreach, one of AWS’ premier born-in-the-cloud partners, prides itself on “intelligent cloud adoption” and has 350 enterprise customers in seven countries. Launched in 2009, the company brings deep expertise in enabling enterprises’ use of the cloud through best-practice guidance and cloud tooling.

Tom Ray, head of Cloudreach in the US, says that in order to deliver the best cloud solutions to enterprises, his team tries to:

“recruit the right people, expose them to the technology, our mindset and our methodologies. This takes time, effort and experience … You cannot rush the process.”

Meanwhile, 2nd Watch — also born in the cloud and now one of AWS’ leading hyper-scale MSPs — is helping the largest enterprises not only adopt the public cloud but evolve how it will be managed today and in the future.

“Large enterprises partner with 2nd Watch,” says Jeff Aden, the company’s Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, “so we can walk alongside them to deliver tailored and integrated management solutions that holistically and proactively encompass the operating, financial, and technical requirements for public cloud adoption. In the end, customers gain more leverage from the cloud with a lot less risk.”

That’s also part of the value proposition at REAN Cloud, a born-in-the-cloud MSP with core expertise in building and managing DevOps-based managed services that support enterprise cloud transformation. REAN Cloud manages what Gartner calls “Bi-Modal IT,” which allows enterprises to manage their traditional ITIL-led managed services while adapting to cloud-led transformation.

Minjar is another innovative MSP, and it’s leading the born-in-the-cloud charge in India. The company’s smart Managed Cloud services are powered by an intelligent man + machine model on top of its Botmetric Cloud Management Platform, which blends AWS competencies, technology, and automation to deliver 24×7 AWS cloud operations.

At the same time, Cloud Technology Partners (CTP), a premier cloud professional services company for enterprises moving to AWS, specializes in helping companies accelerate their cloud adoption and digital innovationinitiatives. Bruce Coughlin, Executive Vice President at CTP, says that clients often refer to his company’s delivery teams as “cloud therapists” because they help organizations think differently about the cloud.

Explains Coughlin —

“The public cloud is not just another datacenter, so it shouldn’t be treated like one. We help shift our client’s thinking from ‘how do I replicate what I do in the datacenter’ to ‘how do I configure the appropriate infrastructure to enable my developers.’ In the end, empowering developers with the tools they need — with the right overarching security and governance controls — helps our clients achieve even their loftiest cloud goals.”

Like CTP, Rackspace recognized the importance of helping businesses move and operate in the cloud. As a result, it fully embraced a strategic shift that enables it to provide top-tier cloud management and support.

“For over 15 years, Rackspace has been focused on helping customers leverage technology to move their businesses forward,” says Prashanth Chandrasekar, Vice President & General Manager of the AWS Business Unit at Rackspace. “We saw a huge demand for AWS from our customers, and made the decision to develop the technology and expertise necessary to enable them to take full advantage of the AWS Cloud. With just over a year in the market, Fanatical Support for AWS is the fastest growing business in Rackspace history, and we look forward to continuing to adapt our capabilities to help our customers build cloud-enabled businesses.”

Regardless of which MSP an enterprise chooses — or whether it chooses one — I’ve said that each organization has its own unique set of opportunities and challenges that guide and constrain its decisions on the cloud journey.

Chris Wegmann, who leads the Accenture AWS Business Group at Accenture, enriched this thinking in his recent post

“Despite how obvious it may sound, our advice is to start from the finish line and work back. Look at your business goals, your targets — your most important outcomes, and then decide on what migration approach you want to take. Each business has unique objectives, and determining what they are represents the epitome of a more assured cloud journey.

For example, is your organization dealing with a physical challenge, such as exiting a data center that needs to be refreshed or a data center lease expiring? A technical debt issue, such as end of life on your OS or hardware? Or do you want to re-architect your applications completely, so that they gain greater elasticity and agility within and outside your organization? It’s clear that public cloud can be the catalyst that drives true business transformation. How you get there, however, will vary and evolve based on your business needs.”

In addition to my e-book of cloud best practices, which are just as relevant to traditional MSPs as they are to modern-day enterprises, I’d close with one final piece of advice for the MSPs who are struggling with their journey —

Stop fighting gravity. The cloud is here, the benefits to your customers are transformational, and these companies need your help to take full advantage of what the cloud offers them. Eventually, if you don’t help them, they’ll find someone who will. Train and certify your teams on cloud, adjust your go-to-market so you can help your customers constantly reinvent themselves, and you’ll reinvent yourself in the process.

Keep building,

Note: “Reinvention” is the fourth (and never-ending) stage of adoption I’m writing about in the Journey to Cloud-First Series The first stage is “Project,” the second stage is “Foundation,” and the third is Migration.” This series follows the best practices I’ve outlined in An E-Book of Cloud Best Practices for Your Enterprise. Stay tuned for more stories posts in this series.

Stephen Orban

Stephen Orban

Stephen is the GM (General Manager) of a new AWS service under development, and author of the book “Ahead in the Cloud: Best Practices for Navigating the Future of Enterprise IT” Stephen spent his first three-and-a-half years with Amazon as the Global Head of Enterprise Strategy, where he oversaw AWS’s enterprise go-to-market strategy, invented and built AWS’s Migration Acceleration Program (MAP), and helped executives from hundreds of the world’s largest companies envision, develop, and mature their IT operating model using the cloud. Stephen authored Ahead in the Cloud so customers might benefit from many of the best practices Stephen observed working with customers in this role. Prior to joining AWS, Stephen was the CIO of Dow Jones, where he introduced modern software development methodologies and reduced costs while implementing a cloud-first strategy. These transformational changes accelerated product development cycles and increased productivity across all lines of business, including The Wall Street Journal,, Dow Jones Newswires, and Factiva. Stephen also spent 11 years at Bloomberg LP, holding a variety of leadership positions across their equity and messaging platforms, before founding Bloomberg Sports in 2008, where he served as CTO. Stephen earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from State University of New York College at Fredonia.