Enterprises are moving inexorably towards a multi-cloud environment, says a recent report by 451 Research and consequently, the 2017 report finds, systems become more complex. Complexity brings a increase in the burden of management, so unearthing the best combined cloud and management solution is the big challenge.
The challenge of complexity
Most enterprises today expect to use multiple clouds now and in future. That, along with the use of off- and on-premises clouds, adds complexity to infrastructure management, requiring time, money, energy and the right tools for IT staff to control systems, preferably via a single pane of glass.
451 Research's report, whose scope was global, revealed that IT managers said cost management, data migration and cloud management were their top three challenges. Automation was the next biggest challenge but was seen as crucial for cutting cost and complexity.
Yet despite managers' concerns about issues such security, compliance and integration, the report finds that enterprises "are embracing next-generation networking technologies such as SDN and network functions virtualisation (NFV) as part of their data centre and cloud strategies." They are also "using innovative/emerging technologies such as containers, big-data solutions and software-defined networking (SDN) in production scenarios."
The cloud handshake
We've discussed before in this series of blogs the critical role that the managed services provider can play. An MSP can front-end the enterprise cloud, wrapping around the raw cloud service with services that enable organisations to consume applications in a fashion that matches their needs.
This is not just theory. As the report finds, "managed services have become a key component of service delivery across a range of infrastructure and application products." In other words, the multi-cloud environment's mix of applications and services requires a specialist set of skills, which can be difficult and often expensive to source, especially in today's highly dynamic cloud market.
The core challenge though is to ensure the availability and performance of your cloud-based applications - which has been described as "completing the cloud handshake".
When you use a cloud-based resource you are tapping into a multi-tenant, scalable, automated offering that is designed to be consumed by multiple customers in the same way. What makes a cloud service provider's offer compelling are the standardisation and cost efficiencies that a cloud provider can achieve, along with the configuration options that allow you to compile different service offerings in a way that best meets your workload and corporate objectives.
The cloud handshake is the combination of an understanding the cloud provider's offerings, and the building and configuring of workloads on them. But managing that cloud handshake is unlikely to be top of your list of business priorities.
The MSP advantage
This is where the managed service provider (MSP) can add the most value. And exactly where their business models are evolving. The MSP or the cloud provider - or a combination of both - can today help to reduce complexity, determine and clarify your cloud strategy, locate your workloads in the most appropriate place, manage the infrastructure, and so on.
And this is the model that enterprises are increasingly adopting, with the ability to call on technical experts at the top of the list of criteria for selecting an MSP.
As the cloud started to gain in popularity, some opined that there would be little or no space for the MSP. What has instead happened is that the MSP has morphed into a partner who can help the enterprise extract the best from the cloud provider's offerings while reducing the pain points of adopting leading-edge cloud services - particularly complex systems management.
What's not to like?
 451 Research: Success Factors for Managing IT. http://www2.dimensiondata.com/en/Microsites/hybri...
 James Staten: Cloud success comes in completing the cloud handshake. https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/blog/cloud-succ...
 451 Research: op.cit.