I’m kind of a stickler for simplification so I always like to set the stage by making sure terms are defined and understood before launching into a diatribe of alphabet soup over acronyms that mean ten different things to ten different people. For instance, it seems today (much like the era of the dot-com) that if someone drops the suffix “aaS” at the end of a subject or object it immediately becomes newsworthy. For instance a statement like MSPs who provide SaaS or DaaS must use either AIaaS or APaaS to achieve true IaaS, is in my opinion condescending. It’s kind of like using the word Grok. If you don’t know what it means, then you must not be educated enough to use it. Do you grok SaaS?
These kinds of acronyms and esoteric terms only confuse the poor guy who is trying to make a decision about how to run his business more cost effectively. The small business owner is still trying to figure out what an “XP Pro” is or why there is so much hype over Vista vs. OS 10 (PC Guy vs. Apple Guy). And the more software/computer science literate business owner wants to know why he has to pay for an entire staff of guys to keep his PCs running when he could do it all himself if he only had the time. In either case, especially in this economy, at the end of the day it’s all about the bottom line in business. Techno jargon is meaningless if it has no bearing on profitability. For these business owners if it costs less to do business by outsourcing part of the business, that’s exactly what they are going to do. But the message better be simple as to how they go about it. So whether or not the small or medium sized business (SMB) owner can decipher Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who provide Software as a Service (SaaS) or Desktops as a Service (DaaS) must use either Application Infrastructure as a Service (AIaaS) or Application Platforms as a Service (APaaS) to achieve true Integration as a Service (IaaS), doesn’t mean a hill of beans if it doesn’t help his bottom line. What is really important is for the MSP to quickly articulate his value proposition to the SMB owner so that there is no question about the service provided and its relative value to the business. To start, according to Wikipedia, Software as a Service “is a model of software deployment where an application is hosted as a service provided to customers across the Internet. By eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer’s own computer, SaaS alleviates the customer’s burden of software maintenance, ongoing operation, and support.” Now that’s pretty understandable even for the guy who doesn’t know what an XP Pro is.
Even with this distinction however there are still different types of MSPs who provide services for a variety of different use cases. For simplicity sake, I’ll describe three variants of MSPs here but by no means does this exhaust the category. First there is the purist MSP. That is to say the service provider who sets up one application to be shared by hundreds or thousands of businesses for a one-to-many implementation. On the other end of the spectrum, is the service provider who transfers an entire data center from an SMB and hosts the “custom” one-to-one environment. The later obviously has a scaling issue in that each physical server farm must stand on its own for each individual SMB. In between these extremes is the MSP who has a “generic” server farm (which may or may not be virtual) used to deliver applications, but not necessarily built to scale. In this case, the SMB may have a set number of applications he wishes to have hosted, but not all applications. Sometimes these applications are problematic and may be difficult to deliver to remote sites. Or they may be cumbersome to manage and therefore cause an inordinate amount of time and energy for the local IT personnel. In some cases this hybrid hoster may provide an entire environment for a specific niche.
One such hybrid is a company called AcXess Inc, http://www.acxess.com/AcXess_home.htm in Boca Raton, Florida. AcXess is the developer of V-Works™ a new Platform for managing online Virtual Server Environments. Their services include Labs On-Demand™ for integration and consulting projects, Demos On-Demand™ for automated “live” software demonstrations and Desktops On-Demand™ for Hi-Performance remote access desktops and applications. By focusing on the ability to host lab environments and demonstrations, this MSP has built a business with unique value to a variety of customers including Microsoft, AT&T and SAP. Tom Elowson, CEO is no neophyte when it comes to hosted services. He was actually one of the principals in an ASP company in 2000. Learning from the rise and fall of that era, Tom started AcXess and a couple of other companies to take advantage of the emerging hosted services market. His business is actually seeing growth even in these tough times, which is no surprise according to a recent article written by Scott Campbell at ChannelWeb, entitled “Study: MSPs Bucking Poor Economy”, http://www.crn.com/managed-services/212902884. The article states, “Managed service providers expect their revenue to increase by 20 percent over the next 12 months, according to a new study by research firm AMI-Partners. The study found that MSPs are being spared the impact of the downturn, and in fact may owe some success to the economy, as more businesses look to streamline IT costs through managed services.”
So when it’s all said and done, alphabet soup isn’t where the money is… it’s in the services that the SMBs are looking for…. And did I mention that AcXess uses Citrix products to power their hosted infrastructure. Yep, they do!