The Cloud and Infrastructure Management Services

Infrastructure Management Services or IMS is one of the fastest growing services for IT Services companies. But computing infrastructure is what the Cloud will impact first and foremost. Is the fast growing IMS in jeopardy, then?

There are good reasons why the Cloud is a big trend. Enterprise IT loves the pay per use, “utility” model of provisioning computing power and storage. The infrastructure and the headache of managing it, both belong to someone else. Someone who can drive down costs tremendously through scale and automation in a way that the company on its own, never can.

But there are issues too. Since data will be outside the company firewall, information security is a big issue. Also, there are billions of dollars invested in data center infrastructure. Its all very well to say convert your investments into variable costs, but whose going to take those investments off the company’s hands? Not the cloud services vendor. In the meanwhile, virtualization technology like VMWare’s is helping companies achieve some of those savings in house.

The migration to cloud infrastructure is going to be gradual. Startups who don’t have anything invested will go straight to Amazon Web Services or a similar provider. But big business, which is where IT Services companies get the lion’s share of their revenues from, will take its time in migrating to the cloud.

Change is always an opportunity for a services company. Whether a company wants to try out the Cloud or implement a “Private Cloud” in house, they need advice and migration services.

Traditional IMS may also see a boost in the short term. A Fortune 1000 company may not shift much of its infrastructure to the Cloud, but between that and implementing a Private Cloud, the change will be significant – the pain of which they may decide is not worth bearing themselves. Often, this will lead to outsourcing decisions.

In the long-term how will the Cloud impact the IMS opportunity? There are some reasons to be concerned, but on balance, the impact will be positive.

The Cloud, by definition, reduces the workload on infrastructure management. But Private clouds retain a lot of the infrastructure management workload of legacy data centers. And as we have noted earlier, it will take many years before large companies will completely jettison their data centers, which will also need to be managed. Thus, the addressable space for IMS will shrink, but gradually.

While the pie might shrink somewhat, the slice of the pie that IMS gets could increase rapidly. Infrastructure management has been one of the laggards in the offshore services world. Some of it was because it required significant investments in NOCs (Network Operations Centers) by service providers, which slowed down progress. But it was also because clients have been less eager to offshore. The risk-benefit tradeoff for IMS is not as good as it is for Application Services. New technologies like virtualization will reduce the risk of outsourcing critical infrastructure management. The Cloud might just be the catalyst that gets more companies to outsource more aggressively.

But while there is opportunity ahead in IMS, service providers will have to change directions to take advantage of it. An advisory service to help clients understand the costs and benefits of migrating to the Cloud and/or a Private Cloud, should help position the service provider early in the decision cycle. A Private Cloud implementation and ongoing management service could be a money spinner, if not immediately, perhaps in a year or two (for which one would have to be offering it right now). In the future, there could be opportunities to resell third-party white-label Public Cloud services with a layer of IT management tools, although margins here are likely to be slim.

Photo Credit Kevin Dooley

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Basab Pradhan writes about enterprise technology and services and other things on his mind at his blog 6 AM Pacific.
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