How MSPs Benefit from Commodity Hardware and Open Source Virtualization
As a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or hosting provider, you need to keep pace with the big public cloud providers and create customer solutions that provide the same flexibility and potential for scale that the hyperscalers offer. Yes, you can offer customers the peace of mind that comes with hosted private cloud, but that advantage alone isn’t always enough to win. Your prospects still need you to provide an affordable solution. As an MSP, how can you build a flexible, cost-effective cloud infrastructure that levels the playing field when you go up against Amazon, Google and Microsoft?
The giant public cloud providers have completely cost-optimized their infrastructure from both a capital expense (CAPEX) perspective and an operational expense (OPEX) perspective. From the CAPEX perspective, public cloud providers take advantage of white box hardware and no-cost virtualization. Their architecture enables frictionless scale-out and granular scale-up so that they can buy and deploy infrastructure as their utilization dictates. From an OPEX perspective, a hyperscaler’s infrastructure is extremely simple to manage, thanks to heavy and pervasive automation and a simple-to-operate architecture.
Hardware and Virtualization Independence
An MSP can have the same advantages by moving to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). The current generation of software-only HCI-based clouds don’t have the hardware prerequisites of either legacy infrastructure or first-generation HCI appliances. Hyperconvergence software allows an MSP to use hardware from their preferred server manufacturer, as opposed to whichever manufacturer an appliance vendor may choose. Having the freedom to choose a hardware supplier has many benefits from both purchasing and operational standpoints. It also means that you can re-use hardware you already own if it meets the requirements for your deployment.
Commodity hardware is fully supported by next-generation HCI, and services that were once instantiated as “value- add” functions of a proprietary array controller are now offered as part of the software stack from the HCI provider. These improvements make your multi-tenant cloud infrastructure much less expensive to acquire and deploy. In addition, the hypervisor agnosticism of next-generation HCI makes hypervisor lock-in a thing of the past.
You’re In Control of Scaling
MSPs need the flexibility to scale in small increments, shift resources around, and grow compute and storage independently – all things traditional storage and hyperconverged appliances can’t offer. On the surface, a turnkey hyperconverged appliance looks like a good way to go. It’s simple to rack-and-stack new systems as demand grows. But appliances can’t scale in small increments, and they typically can’t have their hardware resource configuration modified in the field – the very thing that MSPs need.
To scale a hyperconverged appliance solution, you have to add an entire node. The expense of even a small node is significant when you factor in licensing, virtualization, and everything else that comes with an appliance node. And if you were trying to accommodate only one resource constraint, you end up with either excess storage or compute you don’t actually need.
Scaling of the infrastructure vertically (adding more capacity to a single node) or horizontally (adding more nodes to a cloud) can be accomplished without the barriers of either hypervisor or hardware lock-ins. This means that planners no longer need to purchase storage node licenses from their hypervisor vendor to add storage capacity, or purchase a new storage array with another instance of value-add compression software when they’re nearing full capacity on their existing storage nodes.
No More Refresh Tax
One of the qualities of HCI appliances that will immediately undermine the economics of an MSP is the fact that the software license you buy is tied to the physical appliance. That means when the hardware is retired because it no longer meets your needs, the license goes with it, forcing you to buy a new license for whatever hardware replaces it.
HCI software ditches this outdated licensing scheme, making your license portable to whatever hardware instance you’d like to use it with. Only pay for software once – not every time you refresh hardware.
Manage Virtual Machines, Not Storage
Traditional storage and even SDS can only create and manage storage objects such as LUNs or volumes, forcing you to become a storage expert. As an MSP trying to compete for business with bigger cloud providers, you don’t have the luxury of hiring dedicated storage experts.
With hyperconvergence software and its execute-anywhere and store-anywhere capabilities, applications can be designed without ties to specific hardware constraints or limits. Plus, they can be managed as VMs rather than physical constructs (that is, with their resources in chip cores, network paths or storage infrastructure defined and hard-coded as hardware addresses.) This can dramatically reduce development timeframes and improve the speed with which you can deliver new infrastructure and services to your customers.
Moreover, customer applications can be readily enhanced with per-VM or per-vDisk quality of service (QoS) policies, for availability and performance SLAs, and for data protection, privacy and preservation service assignments. This is the level of control and quality assurance customers may find lacking with hyperscale cloud providers. And the ability to provide it all in an automated fashion allows MSPs to focus on meeting the changing needs of their customers, instead of on tweaking settings on a LUN.
The Clear Choice
Add it all up, and it’s clear that building cloud offerings with HCI provides the foundation for a more agile (fast responding), elastic (capable of adapting to workload demands in real time), and resilient (dependable, assured availability) IT service. When a customer experiences sudden growth or market demand and needs to grow, hosting resources can be provisioned much more rapidly with an efficient, HCI- driven cloud infrastructure.