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How to Choose the Right Hyperscale Managed Service Provider (MSP)

One of the challenges that many businesses struggle to overcome is how to keep up with the massive (and on-going) changes in technology and implement best practices for managing them.  The Public Cloud­—in particular, Hyperscale Cloud providers like AWS—has ushered in a new era of IT technology. This technology changes rapidly and is designed to provide businesses with the building blocks that allow IT organizations to focus on innovation and growth, rather than mess with things that don’t differentiate their business.

A Hyperscale Managed Services Provider (MSP) can help address a very important gap for many businesses that struggle to:

  • Keep up with the frenetic pace of change in Public Cloud
  • Define and use best practices to achieve superior results
  • Manage their infrastructure the most efficient way possible


In most cases, Hyperscale MSPs have deep expertise, technology, and automated capabilities to deliver high-quality managed service on a hyperscale platform. And because Hyperscale MSPs are solely focused to deliver capabilities on the cloud IaaS and PaaS that today’s enterprises are using, they are well versed in the best practices and standards to achieve the right results for their clients.

So, how do you go about selecting the right MSP?  The answer to this question is critical because we believe choosing the right MSP is one of the most important decisions you will make when consuming the public cloud.  It is also important to note that some of the qualifications to look for when selecting a Hyperscale MSP for your business needs are obvious, while others are more elusive.  I’ve included a few suggestions below to keep in mind when evaluating and selecting the right Hyperscale MSP.

Expertise on the Platform of Your Choice

First and foremost, no two public cloud providers are the same.  Each provider implements MSP strategies differently—from infrastructure and redundancy, to automation and billing concepts.  Secondly, it isn’t enough for a provider to tell you they have a few applications running on the platform.  When looking to entrust someone with your most valuable assets, expertise is key!  An important KPI for measuring the capabilities of a MSP that many businesses overlook is the provider’s depth and breadth of experience. A qualified Hyperscale MSP will have the right certifications, accreditations, and certified engineer-to-customer ratios.  You may feel good about signing with a large provider because they claim a higher number of certified engineers than the smaller firms, until…you realize their certified engineer-to-customer ratio is out of whack.  Having 200 certified engineers means nothing if you have 5,000+ customers.  At 2nd Watch, we have more certified engineers than we do customers, and we like it that way.

The Focus is on Customer Value

This is an obvious recommendation, but it does have some nuances.  Many MSPs will simply take the “Your mess for less” approach to managing your infrastructure.  Our customers tell us that one of the reasons they chose 2nd Watch was our focus on the things that matter to them.  There are many MSPs that have technical capabilities to manage Cloud infrastructure but not all are able to focus in on how an enterprise wants to use the Public Cloud.  MSPs with the ability to understand their client’s needs and goals tailor their approach to work for the enterprise vs. making them snap to some preconceived notion of how these things should work or function.  Find an MSP that is willing to make the Public Cloud work the way you want it to and your overall experience, and the outcome, will be game changing.

Optimize, Optimize, Optimize

Moving to the Public Cloud is just the first step in the journey to realizing business value and transforming IT.  The Cloud is dynamic in nature, and due to that fact, it is important that you don’t rest on just a migration once you are using it.  New instance types, new services, or just optimizing what you are running today are great ways to ensure your infrastructure is running at top notch.  It is important to make sure your MSP has a strong, ongoing story about optimization and how they will provide it.  At 2nd Watch, we break optimization into 3 categories:  Financial Optimization, Technical Optimization and Operations Optimization.  It is a good idea to ask your MSP how they handle these three facets of optimization and at what cadence.  Keep in mind that some providers’ pricing structures can act as a disincentive for optimization.  For example, if your MSP’s billing structure is based on a percentage of your total cloud spend, and they reduce that bill by 30% through optimization efforts, that means they are now getting paid less, proportionately, and are likely not motivated to do this type of optimization on a regular basis as it hurts their revenue.  Alternatively, we have also seen MSPs charge extra for these types of services, so the key is to make sure you ask if it’s included and get details about the services that would be considered an extra charge.

Full Service

The final qualification to look for in a Hyperscale MSP is whether they are a full-service provider.  Too often, pure play MSPs are not able to provide a full service offering under their umbrella.  The most common reason is that they lack professional services to assess and migrate workloads or cloud architects to build out new functionality.

Our enterprise clients tell us that one of their major frustrations is having to work with multiple vendors on a project.  With multiple vendors, it is difficult to keep track of who is accountable and for what they are accountable.  Why would the vendor that is migrating be motivated to make sure the application is optimized for support if they aren’t providing the support?  I have heard horror stories of businesses trying to move to the cloud and becoming frustrated that multiple vendors are involved on the same workload, because the vendors blame each other for missing deadlines or not delivering key milestones or technical content.  Your business will be better served by hiring an MSP who can run the full cloud-migration process—from workload assessment and migration to managing and optimizing your cloud infrastructure on an ongoing basis.

In addition to the tips I have listed above, 2nd Watch recommends utilizing Gartner’s Magic Quadrant to help evaluate the various public cloud managed service providers available to you. Gartner positioned 2nd Watch in the Leaders quadrant of the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure Managed Service Providers, Worldwide for our completeness of vision and ability to execute.  You can download and read the full report here.


-Kris Bliesner, CTO



Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document.


2nd Watch Named "Leader" in Gartner's New Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Managed Service Providers Report

2nd Watch is honored to be named a leader in the 2017 Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure Managed Service Providers, Worldwide” report.  We want to thank our customers that have partnered with us throughout the years and our employees who are key to 2nd Watch’s continued success and the success of our customers.

What are the contributing factors to our success?

  • One of the longest track records in AWS consulting services and a very close partnership with AWS. We understand the AWS environment and how to best operate within it, and we have numerous customer case studies, large-scale implementations, and a solid track record of positive customer experiences and strong customer retention. We have in-depth expertise in helping traditional businesses launch and operate digital business offerings.
  • A well-established cloud migration factory. Our professional services help enterprise customers with cloud readiness assessments, security assessments and cloud governance structures. We also assist customers with re-engineering IT processes for the cloud and integrating cloud processes with other established business processes.
  • Our Cloud Management Platform, which provides policy-driven governance capabilities, while still allowing the customer to fully exploit the underlying cloud platform

Gartner positioned 2nd Watch in the Leaders quadrant for its ability to execute and completeness of vision.  We are all-in with AWS Cloud and are committed to the success of our clients as evidenced in our use cases.

Some of the world’s largest enterprises partner with 2nd Watch for our ability to deliver tailored and integrated management solutions that holistically and proactively encompass the operating, financial, and technical requirements for public cloud adoption. In the end, customers gain more leverage from the cloud with a lot less risk.

We look forward to continued success in 2017 and beyond through successful customer implementations and ongoing management. To find out how we can partner with your company, visit us here.

Access Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure Managed Service Providers, Worldwide” report, compliments of 2nd Watch.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.


Why agile is fragile and how MSPs can help

Midmarket and enterprise companies looking to transform their IT operations to new models based on the public cloud and Agile/DevOps have a long, arduous journey. Moving from internally-managed IT departments with predictable needs, to ones which must be flexible and run on-demand is one of the grea paradigm shifts for CIOs today.

It requires new skills and new ways of working including a fundamental reorganisation of IT organisations. Meanwhile, IT must continue with business as usual, supporting core systems and processes for productivity and operations.

Many companies can’t get there fast enough, which is why the market for service providers specialising in public cloud infrastructure and DevOps is growing. A new crop of MSPs that focus specifically on public cloud infrastructure has appeared in the last few years to address the specific needs of public cloud as it relates to migration, legacy systems, integration, provisioning and configuration, security and financial management.

IT organisations are moving on from ing and prototyping to launching production applications in the cloud; there is often not enough time to ramp up quickly in the new capabilities needed for success. Here’s a look at how MSPs can ease the pain of enterprise public cloud and DevOps initiatives:

Network management:
In the public cloud, network management is handled differently due to the differences in the actual network environment and the fact that you just don’t have the same level of visibility and control as you do in your own data center. MSPs can help by lending a hand of expertise in building and managing secure networks in the public cloud.

Without the help of an MSP your business will need to do their own homework on how the network works and what tools are effective on the security side of things: heads up, it’s a much different list than the traditional data center. What do you get out of the box? When do you need third-party software to help? MSPs have years of experience running production workloads in the public cloud and can help you make the right decisions the first time without going through an exhaustive discovery phase.

Design and architecture:
Deploying systems into the cloud requires a mental shift, due to the elastic nature of virtual resources. This reinvents infrastructure design, since instances come and go according to demand and performance needs. IT needs to understand how to automate infrastructure changes according to shifting requirements and risks, such as hardware failures and security configurations. Experienced service providers that have helped companies migrate to the cloud over and again can deliver best practices and reduce risks.

Cloud and DevOps go hand-in-hand due to the joint requirements of frequent iteration, rapid change and continuous integration/development. The processes and tools for CI and CD are still emerging. Doing this well requires not only new, collaborative workflows but working with unfamiliar technologies such as containers.

While AWS has released a new service for managing containers, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Many companies moving toward DevOps benefit from outside help in training, planning, measuring results and navigating internal barriers to change. Lastly, the automation infrastructure itself (Puppet, Chef, others) requires maintenance and is critical in the security landscape. An MSP can help build and manage this infrastructure so that you can focus on your code.

Security in the cloud is a shared responsibility. Many customers incorrectly assume that because public cloud providers have excellent security records and deep compliance frameworks for PCI and other regulations, that their infrastructure is secure by default. The reality is that providers do an excellent job of securing the underlying infrastructure but that is where things stop for them and begin for you as a customer.

Most security issues found in the public cloud today relate to misconfigurations.track configuration changes and validate architectural designs against them. In DevOps, rapid development processes may inadvertently trump security, and using containers and micro-services to speed deployment also introduces security risks. Missteps in the area of security can be long and costly to fix later; an MSP can help mitigate that risk through upfront design and ongoing monitoring and management.

Provisioning and cost management:
Virtual sprawl is no myth. IT teams that for years have used over-provisioning as a stopgap measure to ensure uptime may struggle to adapt to a different approach using on-demand infrastructure. Experts can help make that transition through proper provisioning at the outset as well as applying spend management tools built for the cloud to monitor and predict usage.

One of the best features of public cloud providers is high elasticity, the ability to spin up large amounts of virtual instances at a moment’s notice and then shut them off when you are done using them. The trick here is to remember to shut them off: many development teams claim to work 24×7 but the reality is usually much different. An MSP can set up cost alerting and monitoring and can even leverage tools to help you allocate costs to your heavy users or business units.

Legacy systems:
Large companies often want to move legacy systems to the public cloud to reduce the costly overhead of storage and maintenance. Yet no CIO wants to be accountable for migrating a mission-critical legacy system which later doesn’t perform well or is out of compliance.

Service providers can help evaluate whether a system can be migrated as is, “lift and shift,” or needs to be reconfigured to run in the cloud. CIOs may lean toward handling this task with their internal teams, yet doing so will likely take longer and require significant retraining of staff. There’s also the need to pay close attention to compliance. Experienced MSPs can help navigate financial regulations (Sarbanes-Oxley, PCI), privacy laws (HIPAA) and data management regulations in some sectors that go against the grain of DevOps.

Operations management:
Most IT infrastructure managers whom have been around for a while are well-versed in VMware-specific tools such as Vsphere. Yet unfortunately, most of those operational tools made to support virtualisation software don’t work well, or at all, in the public cloud. There are some cloud-native management tools available now, including those from AWS, yet none of them are clear winners yet.

IT departments are stuck with patching together their own toolsets or developing them from scratch, such as Netflix has done. That’s not always the best use of time and money, depending on your sector. MSPs can take over the operations management function altogether. Customers benefit through the continual learning on industry best practices that the service provider must undertake to effectively manage dozens or hundreds of customers.

Culture clash:
As with any disruptive technology, people are the biggest barrier to change. While human beings are highly adaptable, many of us simply are not comfortable with change. Take a hard look at not just skills but your culture. Do you have the type of organisation where people are willing and able to adapt without threatening to quit? If not, using the services of an MSP might be the path of least friction. Some organisations simply want the benefits of new technologies without needing to understand nor manage every nook and cranny.

Beyond all the above advantages, the MSP partner helps IT organisations move faster by serving as a knowledgeable extension of the IT department. CIOs and their teams can focus on serving the business and its evolving requirements, while the MSP helps ensure that those requirements transition well to the public cloud. Executives who have decided that the public cloud is their future and that DevOps is the way to get there are progressive thinkers whom are unafraid to take risks.

Yet that doesn’t mean they should go it alone. Find a partner who you can trust, and move toward your future with an experienced team propping you up all the way. The old adage of “you won’t get fired for hiring <name legacy service provider>” has now changed to “My new MSP got me promoted.”

-Kris Bliesner, CTO

This article was first published on ITProPortal on 11/25/15.