In just a few months the management service provider (MSP) market has made the transition from latest industry buzzword to legitimate player in the services delivery landscape.
Despite some early success stories, however, experts say customer confusion, increased competition, and scalability hurdles still lie ahead for an MSP market seeking a definitive identity.
Recently 19 companies launched the Management Service Provider Association at PC Expo. The US-based consortium was formed in hopes of educating the marketplace to understand just what an MSP is and how it can help businesses, said member Jon Gettinger, marketing vice president at iSharp.
The group defines MSPs as those providing IT infrastructure services on a subscription basis. The organisation intends to develop standards and best-practices guidelines for MSPs, Gettinger said.
Corey Ferengul, an analyst at Meta Group, said that, because the concept of MSPs evolved quickly from that of application service providers, confusion abounds.
"We've seen [the MSP market] go from zero to 100 miles an hour in no time flat," Ferengul said. "The model for MSP has a lot of potential, but education is a barrier."Ferengul said managed services can greatly reduce a majority of the risk and failure problems currently plaguing the IT industry and can give small-to-midsize businesses access to vendors and services that they may never have been able to afford or justify.
Along with enthusiasm about the Management Service Provider Association, there is some scepticism. According to some sources, "major" traditional management product vendors may decide to take up the services game themselves, leaving most MSPs to forage in a contained small-to-midsize business niche.
Collaboration issues exist as well. Agreeing on a set of MSP standards will prove difficult for the association because many MSPs, particularly startups, have never faced competition before, Ferengul said.
IT obstacles for MSPs include adjusting to major vendor upgrades while maintaining 99.9 per cent reliability to customers, as well as scalability problems that may develop to handle a customer base potentially doubling and tripling in size very quickly.