‘IT as a service’ (ITaaS) is on the rise as companies realise the benefits of contracting an IT service provider for all their business technology needs. While ITaaS is not a new concept, it has become a go-to operational model for medium-to-large sized companies that need 24/7 monitoring, managing, and sustaining of company technology.
Moving to ITaaS is an operational shift, where IT is run as a business and therefore can be optimised according to business needs. Companies that run hybrid IT environments, such as private cloud, public cloud, and in-house applications, can contract services for all or just part of their technological system.
From Build to Consume
So, are more organizations opting to consume rather than own technology today? Well, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer and it just depends on the organization’s specific business and technology strategy and IT resource allocation,” explained Assaad El Saadi, the Regional Director for the Middle East at Pure Storage. “In general, in the region, when it comes to ‘As-a-Service’, we see strong demand from organizations in the small to medium-size business (SMB) sector, driven in large part by the lower TCO that an ‘As-a-Service’ offering affords these businesses. If we look at the enterprise market, organizations take a more pragmatic view and tend to consider ‘As-a-Service’ offerings depending on if and how the service can help them accelerate their digital transformation efforts.”
According to a market study by McKinsey, enterprises will make a fundamental shift from building IT to consuming IT. The big takeaway here is that enterprises are planning to transition IT workloads at a significant rate and pace to a hybrid cloud infrastructure, with off-premise environments seeing the greatest growth in adoption.
“As the drive towards digital transformation gathers momentum, organisations are growing their exposure to cyber threats. In the meantime, the cybersecurity skill shortage continues to accelerate, increasing IT and security professionals struggle across the globe,” added Shadi Khuffash, the Regional Sales Director for Carriers and MSSPs at Fortinet. “However, in this new environment, security needs to be woven into every aspect at digital speeds. As result organizations are opting to simplify their operations and reduce overhead by outsourcing their IT security to MSSPs who can deliver the best security to meet their individual needs.”
Meanwhile, Terry-Greer King, the Vice President for EMEA at SonicWall, says that the global managed services market continues to expand. “Especially SMBs are moving their IT to managed services as they very often don’t have the resources inhouse to keep up with the ever-changing cyber threat landscape. We are expecting the managed services market to further grow,” he said.
The Big Benefits
Among the vendors and solutions providers who support and propose the concept of ITaaS as an operating model, ITaaS has numerous and diverse benefits including minimal upfront IT investment, financial transparency, continuous monitoring of services, predictable expenses, expert technical support, and more. “These models in general, bring the advantage of increased flexibility but also the ability to strengthen the relationship with customers through a strong service offering. Increased cost predictability and scalability are also to be mentioned here as these become increasingly important especially in strong competitive and fast-growing environments,” added King.
Speaking about Pure’s storage-as-a-service approach, El Saadi says that its offering enables customers to quickly and easily leverage all of the infrastructure tools. “Our offering also helps customers utilise more of their data while reducing the complexity and expense of managing the infrastructure behind it. Customers want services that grow and change as they do, in addition to ease-of-use, interoperability, and a clear upgrade path. Pure as-a-Service consists of a variety of block, file and object storage services that can be deployed on-premises and in the public cloud. A single subscription and one set of Pure1 management tools allow organizations to efficiently manage a unified hybrid cloud storage environment backed by pre- and post-sales professional services,” he added.
From a network security vendor perspective, managed security service providers (MSSPs) offer security-as-a-service to their customers who struggle to manage and secure their disparate systems. “By leveling up with automated security solutions, MSSPs can quickly respond to automated attacks occurring anywhere across their entire network. With MSSP-provided threat correlation and automated response and remediation, customers can be protected across their distributed environments with the flexibility to make dynamic adjustments as their cloud networks expand,” said Khuffash.
Transforming Into An MSP
The trick is differentiating what you provide in order to rise above the competition, explained Harish Chib, the Vice President for the Middle East and Africa at Sophos. “Clients are entrusting the security of their greatest assets—their data—to the MSP. A successful MSP will be able to provide both the high-level and user-level guidance the client needs, acting as a resource for the answers, software, hardware, and more. Next-gen MSPs must align their security strategy with vendors. Vendors, meanwhile, need to become more integrated into the MSP vendor ecosystem, developing and providing tools MSPs use to run their business (PSA) and remotely monitor and manage (RMM) for their customers.”
Chib also added that vendors and partners need to find a better way to manage licenses. “By using billing and licensing option where you can distribute licenses across multiple clients in a more flexible manner—like an aggregate monthly billing option—you’ll speed up the services you offer and be ready to evolve and meet the needs of your clients if those needs grow (or shrink) unexpectedly,” he said. “The old paradigm of annual contracts for vendor services is no longer efficient in the rapidly changing world of next-gen MSPs. If you bill your clients monthly, you should be able to pay your own bills monthly. It just makes sense.”
According to King, first and foremost, it’s the partner’s business model that drives the ability to offer managed services. “Having then a reliable and established partner in the background that offers the right management tools and processes is the key success factor. But it’s not only about strong products and solutions, tools and processes, it’s also about a partner-centric culture that allows partners to work in a no-conflict selling environment,” he said.
King further added that his company’s support for MSPs is built on the foundation of the robust SecureFirst partner program with its long-standing support of partners’ sales, technical, services, and marketing success. “SonicWall does not only offer reliable and proven solutions but also powerful management tools and processes allowing MSSPs to provide the most comprehensive and proactive security services to their clients. This certainly comes with focus training and best in class technical support enabling partners to resolve escalations rapidly,” he said.
There are three key forces driving the growth of managed security services; complexity, cost, and the cyber skills gap. The complexity of protecting distributed IoT-to-multi-cloud networks, increasingly sophisticated threats, and data regulations, coupled with the shortage of skilled security professionals is driving more businesses to outsource their security services.
“Fortinet continues to invest in its MSSP program to help its partners meet the expanding security requirements of organizations undergoing digital transformation,” added Khuffash. “Fortinet’s MSSP program has long supported both large and small managed security service providers by helping them adapt to changing market dynamics and threat conditions, and assisting in their growth through training, specialized support, and go-to-market programs that enable profitable services creation.”
The transition to next-gen MSPs has been a challenge for channel partners to operate successfully in this new and far more complex environment. “The numerous vendors and products MSPs need to provide to cover the full range of services required has never been an easy burden to bear, but in today’s fast-paced environment, managing these vendors has become a costly time sink. There’s also been a shift to a subscription model for MSP services. This shift impacts the vendor as well, as most vendor services are perpetual licenses rather than monthly, preventing MSPs from managing their billing processes consistently,” explained Chib.
Chib added that MSPs work within a finite budget, and need to determine where their budgets are best spent. “MSPs do have options to save on costs, however—buying licenses in bulk or through an aggregator can ease some of the burdens. In order to survive successfully in the current market, MSPs need to differentiate what they provide to rise above the competition,” he added.
Security is another challenge in this area. “The primary challenge is how to establish and maintain a consistent security policy and policy enforcement as data moves back and forth between local and third-party cloud environments. This is the single most critical gating factor preventing partners and vendors from adopting a XaaS network strategy,” added Khuffash. “The more security solutions natively integrate with cloud-based services, the more secure the enterprise. By leveraging the threat feeds and native security capabilities of all clouds, and integrating these into the multi-cloud security framework, organizations can turn the risk multiplication effect into a security multiplication effect.”
Meanwhile, King is of the opinion that despite their benefits, “Anything as a Service” offerings sometimes contend with issues of resilience and internet reliability. “Some organisations have been tentative to adopt ‘Anything as a Service’ models because of security, compliance and business governance concerns. SonicWall is addressing those concerns with its boundless cybersecurity approach – regardless of whether it’s in an on-premise environment or in an ‘as-a-service’ model,” he explained.
The Way Forward
The combination of cloud computing and ubiquitous, high-bandwidth, global internet access provides the ideal environment and circumstances for growth in this market segment. “Anything as a Service” is virtually taking over all areas of technology and technology-driven businesses, and cybersecurity is no different. “This shift to ‘as a service’ is driving a dramatic transformation in the channel, where cybersecurity value-added resellers of all sizes are rapidly transitioning their businesses to become service providers for their customers. This enables them to move up the value chain to become more strategic, and also enhances the predictability of their business model and customer retention,” added Chib.
Migration to cloud-based compute and services platforms have allowed organisations to quickly adapt to the global transition to a digital economy. The ability to quickly spin up resources, adopt new applications, and respond in real-time to end-user and consumer demands allows organizations to compete effectively in today’s new digital marketplace.
Technology is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for business success and it is critical to find a managed services provider that can deliver on the promise of IT service quality and efficiency. With more and more companies – small to medium businesses included – facing the challenges of finding a simple, cost-effective IT solution, the IT-as-a-service model can offer enormous benefits to everyone involved – the customer, the vendor, and the partner if implemented optimally.