SMB virtualisatrion: The managed services debate

SMB virtualisatrion: The managed services debate

How do managed services and virtualisation fit together?

One highly-debated topic raised during the roundtable was whether resellers were investing in building managed and cloud services to meet increased customer demand.

Regal IT’s Mark Gluckman claimed being a systems integrator required a completely different skill set to hosting or managed services.

“There are different positions and drivers – there are service level agreements and issues around service delivery. Yes, you have to support a new back-end technical team, but running a professional services organisation, where you have utilisation and a whole heap of engineers you’ve got to keep busy, is a whole different business model,” he claimed.

Rather than build its own services offering, PC Nation’s Adam Nixon said it had outsourced most of the hosting and managed services component through strategic partners.

“That appears seamless to customers – whether it stays that way remains to be seen. Yes, we are taking it seriously and promoting it, but at this point in time, it’s being outsourced,” he said. For Nixon, the integrator’s role was to bundle the services together and provide a reliable customer-facing service and help desk.

“We own the relationship and we’re the ones who care. And it is a further set of challenges, because we have to manage those relationships,” he said.

Accucom’s Roy Pater compared an integrator’s investment into building managed services or cloud capabilities to the early days of the PC industry.

“As a reseller, we all thought we had to import the whitebox at first, but eventually we learned it was okay to see someone else’s branded product,” he explained. “Our value is to couple it all together and provide a solution. Are we not going through the same evolution in the managed services space, where we all think we have to build our own infrastructure and cloud, as opposed to selling a very good, branded product?”

Dell’s Jay Turner agreed cloud and managed services were a necessary step forward, but suggested resellers rely on their vendor partners to make the move and avoid adding a huge amount of cost to their business. He revealed the vendor’s cloud services offering was only a few months away and would give partners access to services like email support, DR and backup.

“There are benefits to be gained on a couple of fronts: One is do you need to invest in that capital infrastructure moving forward, when you can take advantage of some other company’s infrastructure?” he asked. “Secondly, if you are currently on next business day, we are already seeing the majority of break/fix requirements being able to be fixed on the spot. Thirdly, it’s going to dramatically reduce, with a very high customer experience, the face-to-face time you need to do in a shorter amount of time.

“There is a great customer experience, but also huge cost savings can be made out of it.”

IDC’s Jean-Marc Annonier said partnering with another provider – whether it be a tier-one vendor or a hosting company – relied on trust.

“The chain is longer and the chances of something breaking along the way are higher,” he said. “Obviously, you’re saving money, but at the same time, if there is something wrong, you need to be clear on who is going to fix it – no finger pointing. The last thing a client wants to hear is that it’s Telstra’s fault, or Dell’s.”

Accucom’s Pater questioned whether it would be telcos or tier-one infrastructure vendors who would become most trusted in the managed services environment.

“If you look at more traditional IT providers like HP, IBM and Dell, they can provide space, but they haven’t done much in this space yet. But they’re trusted brands,” Annonier said. “But customers won’t care because they are talking to you as you’re the provider. If something goes wrong, it’s your problem.”

It ultimately came down to understanding what third-party service was on offer and how it translated to your customer base and business objectives, PC Nation’s Nixon said.

“You have a choice of trusting some large vendor, or going your own road and investing in this yourself, or going with someone you trust the most,” Dell’s Turner said. “That’s the big question for the IT industry at the moment: Do you go your own road, which involves a CapEx investment, a substantial change to your business model, or do you outsource that, like you moved from whitebox to another product in the past?

“It’s a really big question that’s going to change the relationships you have with vendors over the next while. Telecommunications are involved as well.”

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