If cloud computing has been one of the most transformative, forward-looking aspects of enterprise IT in recent years, IT managed services might be seen as one of the most traditional.
On the one hand, via cloud services, we have the opportunity for organisations to consume computing resources as a utility, enjoying all of the next-generation flexibility and cost-effectiveness benefits that this implies. Whether cloud services are provisioned from a private or public cloud, they still allow the business in question to use them on demand, scaling them elastically up or down as required and paying for precisely how much they use. This rapid scalability, without a hefty upfront investment, is generally what makes cloud services so appealing to businesses of all scopes and across multiple sectors.
On the other hand, managed services look far more like a traditional outsourcing mechanism. Managed service providers (MSPs) typically take over all of the ongoing management and maintenance tasks involved with a particular facet of an organisation’s IT – or, indeed, its entire IT function. This is primarily about ‘keeping the lights on’, but can also involve advanced troubleshooting and upgrades, proactive maintenance and so on. In turn, internal IT resource is freed up for more strategic and long-term tasks, while the company benefits from streamlined IT management and the expertise and experience of the specialist third party.
Are managed services obsolete?
During the early days of cloud computing, these contrasting models caused a certain amount of discussion as to whether managed services would remain relevant in the cloud computing era. Surely, the argument went, the more businesses were able to outsource key applications and functions, consuming them on a per-use basis from the cloud, the less need there would be for an ongoing management and monitoring service?
However, the truth is that managed services are absolutely critical to the successful running of cloud services – they are simply evolving in a new direction.
Combining the two
Combine the two and we arrive at managed cloud – a third party service that takes over the management of your cloud environment. Anything from initial design and planning, through to migration of data and applications, to ongoing management, monitoring, security and performance optimisation can be covered.
And it’s this diversity of functions that really underlines how useful managed cloud services can be.
Cloud management is often very complex, particularly for organisations with smaller in-house IT functions. The average Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud console contains a huge amount of functionality, often far beyond the average IT staff member who doesn’t have specialist training. Highly dynamic, multi-vendor IT environments are now the norm even for small businesses; indeed, even the days of a single public or private cloud service are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, more and more organisations are combining hybrid clouds with on-premise functionality. Unless they have enormous depth and breadth of internal IT knowledge, most organisations need to draw on external expertise simply to manage this complexity.
Then there’s the question of migrations to the cloud, or between different cloud environments. Again, these can be extremely complex – and costly – for organisations to handle internally.
In short, the incredible complexity and dynamism of cloud computing today means that there is actually more need for IT managed services, not less – it’s just that those services need to be directed very firmly towards the cloud. Managed cloud services are by no means a staid and traditional form of enterprise IT – they signify an ambitious and innovative future.