Ipanema Technologies’ Rogier van der Wal looks at application management for SMEs
I was at a conference in Manchester at the end of September. It was rainy. It was busy. And it was interesting.
From conference rooms to casual conversations, a key trend kept re-emerging: the cloud is happening, and this is impacting the VARs who are moving into managed services. These trends are making application performance management more important than ever.
Several years ago, there was a reluctance to go to the cloud within companies conscious of security and data issues. But with the proliferation of big data, internet/SaaS applications, and the industry developing solutions to make sure data is securely stored, there’s been a general acceptance that the cloud is sticking around. Consider that worldwide IT spending on cloud computing has increased more than 25 percent from 2008 to 2012. Similarly, a recent study commissioned by Google indicated that 94 percent of CFOs believe the cloud will be important to the success of their companies. Businesses are now moving to the cloud more than ever before. This is a trend I believe will continue.
The adoption of the cloud has been particularly pronounced among small- to mid-level sized companies. But what does this have to do with application management, network control, and VARs?
Now more than ever, companies need insight into what’s happening over their networks. The cloud itself has become secure, but networks are still struggling along as they did several years ago. If we think of the cloud as the end destination, the network as a bridge between the cloud and the company, and applications as cars going over the bridge, then I’d say that the bridges are wobbly. Sometimes they aren’t big enough for the number of cars, or perhaps they’re too big and too expensive. There’s no way to manage traffic flow, so cars get bottlenecked, clogged and stopped. All of this impacts companies and ultimately the customer experience.
With the cloud, hardware, software and certain technology tools are externalised and dematerialised. The main concern for companies is no longer what solutions or products should they use. Instead, it becomes ‘how can I guarantee the business critical application performance to deliver a high quality of service to my business units?’ Companies start to focus on aligning IT infrastructure with the enterprise’s business goals, on controlling applications, and on maximising performance.
There are a broad range of tools available to handle these applications, with more emerging every day. Some focus on measurement, such as those used by many ecommerce websites, which monitor traffic. Others focus on measurement with simulation, creating test scenarios of applications to ping out across the network in a ceaseless feedback loop. Companies with high levels of data traffic use these, such as large corporates. Even other tools provide control in addition to measurement, enabling certain business-critical applications to be ranked above others, given priority as they pass over and through the network.
What does this all mean for VARs? Over the last couple of years, even as companies have made the transition to the cloud, VARs have started to shift from selling hardware to offering services. I’ve seen VARs starting to offer application performance management services as part of their general services, wrapping application guarantees like neat bits of parcel paper around service offerings.
Alongside this, I’ve seen a potential redefinition of the traditional role of a VAR. Some VARs are becoming consultants and advisors. As small- to mid-sized companies shift to the cloud, they tend to require advice. Often lacking their own large in-house IT departments, many smaller companies rely on VARs. They often need an expert to help explain the challenges of the cloud (such as the threat that numerous applications pose to the network, or the risks of going offline when everything is hosted in the cloud). Certain VARs have started to fill this role. I would be surprised if many more did not follow.
It’s here, in the combined guarantee of services alongside the increased consultancy role, that I see exciting potential for the channel. As these trends continue, network management tools are only going to become more important – as is the role of the advice-offering VAR. Unlike sunshine during the Manchester conference, these trends are here to stay.