Cloud Computing is a both a challenged and lush green BIG opportunity for Managed Service Providers. The primitive challenges are of multi-fold ranging from technological to operational to integration related. Service assurance, Billing and revenue assurance, Reporting, Audit and Compliance related challenges are also a few additions. Let me throw some light on what these challenges are and how Cloud computing impacts the services.
Automatic Service Management
Service Management is mainly about suspending and resuming services based on available credit and other billing cues. A Service Provider needs to have automatic interfaces and provisioning APIs to be able to easily integrate them into their existing billing systems.
There are a host of services that need to be provisioned in addition to ensuring automated provisioning of servers, infrastructure, and resources.
Operational Requirements Integration in Customer Service Representative Portals
Existing CSR Portals need to be enhanced with all the new requirements of cloud computing services. This ensures that the service related queries and technical nuances are addressed effectively and in time.
Unified Self-Care Portals
The existing customer self-care portals need enhancements in order to allow further self-serve of the all cloud computing services. By the very flexible nature of cloud computing, these requirements can be quite substantial.
More Complex Products
Customer facing products get more complex with more services included and that increases the order complexity as well. Managed Service Providers need another extra layer between provisioning layers and their order management systems to be able to fulfill the orders.
Different cloud computing applications and servers offer multiple features and the service provider would like to offer plans and packages to allow monetizing these services down to a single available feature.
Multi-Tenancy Layers & Self-Service Portal
Many applications offered in cloud computing especially the Enterprise Applications were traditionally not designed to run as Multi-Tenant applications. This converts the process of simple provisioning to “multi-tenancy enforced provisioning”. This is very domain specific and is achieved differently on different applications.
Unified Billing and Payments
All cloud computing subscriptions need to be integrated with some other back-end or existing billing systems and then charged to customer’s unified billing accounts.
Lot of operational reporting is required for monitoring, resource availability, resource utilization, and others. Tools will be required required that can provide such operational requirements for cloud computing services.
A Plan Manager is needed that can easily integrate with products and services delivery interface. This lets the provisioning layer allow customers to self-serve for the purchased resources.
An enforcement point is needed in all services to enforce policy restrictions. Quota Manager integrates with self-serve portals to restrict customer’s provisioning requests within their allotted quotas.
Many services need to be metered for their actual usage made by customers. In addition metering agents are needed to monitor and report that usage enabling the charging and rating engines for usage based charging.
The applications in the cloud are mostly provided by third parties and undergo continuous version upgrades. Customers expect the latest version and hence it becomes a perennial challenge for service providers to update the software to the latest version.
Support for Value Added Resellers
Cloud Computing Services at times require additional services such as customization, migration, monitoring, configuration, physical installation, support, repair ,best done by SMBs, that act as resellers for service providers. Their relation with the service provider is mainly B2B and they offer B2C services to their customers and add value in the process. Service provider needs to have the required tools for them to be able to self-serve and their customers to provision resources within their quotas.
Abstracted Out Provisioning Layer
Service providers need a provisioning layer that abstracts out the underlying infrastructure and applications and offers a unified provisioning interface for all applications on all operating systems (be it Windows or Linux).
The range of cloud computing applications is large and keeping their provisioning and integration up to date with all these applications is beyond the scope of a service provider. MSPs need to carefully handle the above said aspects and in return they create a WOW feeling to their enterprise and SMB customer segment. Apart from a delighted customer base, MSPs can also achieve ease of operations and improved service delivery.