Established MSPs and outsourcers have come to rely upon new specialty devops services firms for expertise
Established MSPs and outsourcers have come to rely upon new specialty devops services firms for expertise. This includes go-to-market capabilities, technology consulting, and open source tools. This is changing the nature of the IT services value chain. The older firms need partners to do devops better for their customers, and to sell devops to their customers. They are building out their value streams to include specialty devops firms. The demand for MSPs and outsourcers to deliver devops is being driven by customers, who want devops, particularly as they transition infrastructure to the cloud.
Larry Gordon is cofounder and chief revenue officer of a devops-centric IT services provider.
For MSPs, the most common driver we are seeing now is that a cornerstone application vendor will move offerings to a cloud environment. MSPs have been selling the on-premises version for many years, but the cloud versions are essentially brand-new product sets that require even more capabilities from their service partners. The application vendor will select key cloud and devops capable services firms from their current set of premium service providers through RFPs or other means, and the service partners have to respond by proving their devops capabilities prior to getting customers. It’s a big investment but the risk can be mitigated, help added, and expertise obtained by going to a specialist devops provider who will do the pre-sales and pre-selection at no cost—if devops business is a strong potential in the near future.
Presales support is also available from specialist devops firms in the form of proposal writing for the end clients, the creation of cloud and devops innovation labs, and joint marketing. We are seeing MSPs build innovation labs to accelerate user adoption of devops for the particular applications they resell. It is also a sophisticated way to show application vendor partners that they have the chops to meet client needs quickly.
Innovation labs should be built using agile processes. They should show the application running on AWS or other cloud environments with good metrics generation and data presentation tools to show how the application was deployed, and how it is continuously improved and monitored. Customers are interested in seeing how you can change it, how you can monitor it, how you can add new modules to it quickly and easily, what it costs, and how long it takes. It is a good bet to do the upfront investment because expertise is still rare, and client needs are extensive. Innovation labs can quickly show diverse capabilities so that customers say, “I need this piece of software in this cloud environment.” Instead of just talking about it, you can show them how it’s done, how it accelerates the sales cycle, and how it makes it easier than having dozens of meetings to get to that point.
Joint marketing has once again become meaningful because clients want to learn about devops and see how deeply and quickly they should transform their processes and culture. Meetups, sponsored webinars, and conferences are well attended. Presales and go-to-market support are a key requirements to provide to MSPs and other service providers to help with their transformation to being able to provide devops services. Devops people are very attuned to continuous learning opportunities so information sharing is a currently a powerful way to build communities.
A devops specialist firm will partner with an MSP before it has the customer or as the proposal is being built for an existing customer. The devops specialist can contribute the devops part of it, which requires close work. He or she will go to meetings with MSP, perhaps tuck under the MSP as the AWS team, or be brought in as the devops partner. The specialist can help answer the RFPs and RFI. That’s a lot of upfront work because in general established MSPs have great customers but need some expertise on the devops side.
MSPs and outsourcers often view devops as another way to obtain and retain big accounts and make a bigger impact on the applications with the application owners. MSPs and outsourcers can actually can elevate their position and value proposition inside of the enterprises. Because at the end of the day, applications are the business drivers, and this is the newest way to accelerate time to market and keep applications up and running.
Resources and expertise
MSPs are looking for engineering staffing and also operational process and organizational design consulting. We’ve even seen companies using ITIL want to adopt devops practices and philosophy and applying them to take ITIL in a more innovative and agile approach. That requires some high-level management consulting. There are a lot of companies who are going through this transformation and are seeking help for those things. We often get asked to provide very senior people on-site and locally, in addition to a group of folks from offshore for CI/CD engineering, infrastructure monitoring, and tech ops. Some outsourcers, as well as MSPs, look for senior devops architects and principle consultants to staff customer accounts and help drive the devops transformation that their engineers are fueling.
Management consulting in devops is generally required when the CTO decides to do a devops transformation. An MSP can provide a lot of extra value by helping walk their customer through process change, culture change, how to pick tools, how to hire a team, how to build a team, and how to collaborate with the other leaders in their organization.
Some MSPs and outsourcers now have an opportunity to help clients adjust to a fundamental, cultural paradigm shift that affects the triad at the core of their business: the people, process, and technology. Because devops is a method of delivery focused on collaboration and small batches, one of the keys to success is using the right engineers, methodology, and tool chain to deliver applications to the customer. The MSP and the customer both benefit most if the both do devops correctly. Leadership has stopped thinking about just building the next feature or piece of infrastructure. It can now have an easier conversation about building value for the customer, using the latest process and tools.
Partnering for tool stacks
This new value chain is quite sophisticated. Customers are requiring their partners and their channel, to have cloud and devops expertise beyond basic staffing and toolchain knowledge. They are required to share risk and bring process and leadership knowledge and perhaps even open source tools.
We’ve seen MSPs build their own open source tools that help manage alert and monitoring data and aggregate data from a number of monitoring tools. We’ve also seen outsourcers build orchestration platforms to help manage the growing number of tools enterprises are adopting to drive devops.
Sometimes IT services companies are even partnering with each other to deliver a full stack of open source platforms and tools to enterprise customers. Any tools that help aggregate and manage and report on infrastructure data or CI/CD orchestration are much in demand. These are not usually used instead of commercial tools but as an additional layer to improve engineering productivity and automation, and customer reporting.
Devops is now being quickly adopted by the small and mid-size specialized consulting firms. Usually there is something they do, and do really, really well; they haven’t ventured into devops, but their customers are asking them to do it. The customers want to know how what the MSP does fits into their burgeoning devops structure, or they want the MSP to help with devops because there’s not a lot of people who do it. That’s where MSPs and outsourcers are seeking the specialist firms to help them up their game for their customers.
MSPs often have specialties doing security, network, or particular applications like CRM, and possibly they’ve had a data center and now their customer’s saying, “That was nice of you to invest all that money in a datacenter and on-prem expertise, now I need you to go to AWS.” How are they now going to make money on this? Cloud migration and devops can help them do it. Cloud migration to AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure are often big drivers to devops transformation and is an optimal time to step in and help customers.
So, we are seeing the demand for devops create whole new supply chains. Users are driving their requirements up through the value stream and requiring their providers to transform and adapt as well. MSPs and outsourcers can respond by offering better presales advice, consulting solutions, and innovative tool stacks.
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