As solution providers move to add managed services to their portfolio, an interesting transformation begins to take place.
Rather than thinking along the same lines as somebody trying to sell something, solution providers start to think like buyers, because the product selections that make up the service become technology decisions they have to live with for the long haul.
In that context, solution providers essentially morph into a type of buyer rather than reseller. That means that instead of seeing a product failure as just another opportunity to sell more product, the provider sees that product failure as something that eats into the bottom line, because it has to be serviced as part of a standard contract.
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So with every service call eating into the bottom line, the solution provider becomes very conscious of which products have the highest level of quality.
Given that development, it should come as no surprise that a lot of solution-provider loyalty is up for grabs right now, and the vendors that put the best program in place to help solution providers build their own managed services portfolios will probably be in the best position.
Taken in that light, the most immediate decision facing solution providers is who to rely on for the technology that will power the NOC (network operations center).
Traditionally, that decision is based on whether the provider has Windows or Linux running on Intel servers, or some variant of Unix or Linux running on RISC processors. Given the fact that there are a lot more solution providers and technicians familiar with Windows and Linux, Intel-based approaches are likely to dominate.
But given the fact that the major platform providers such as HP and IBM seem to be less than aggressive when it comes to coming up with programs that package their hardware, operating systems and management software together in a way that is attractive to an MSP that is looking at a recurring revenue model, maybe the emergence of the MSP model will be a seminal event that changes the competitive landscape.
At least that's what the folks at Sun are hoping. Sun is betting that its efforts to send out engineers to help solution providers build out a managed service platform, and its plans to shortly start introducing solution providers to application vendors that have pricing models that are conducive to supporting business models based on recurring revenues, will pay off.
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Furthermore, Sun hopes that solution providers will recognize that unlike its rivals, Sun is not in the business of providing managed services directly. Instead, Sun is hoping that solution providers might even opt to run their services on top of Sun's service, which is based on a $1-per-CPU-hour model.
It's still early days when it comes to the MSP model, but solution providers evolving into MSPs are going to be a lot more interested in long-term product quality than they are in existing market share numbers, and, given that, the odds are good that a lot of them are going to be giving Sun a much closer look than they have in years.
Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media's Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at [email protected]