Cloud computing promises new opportunities for Managed Service Providers (MSP), but what are the key technology and resource requirements for moving to the cloud?
The good news is most of your technical skills remain relevant in the cloud. System configuration tasks such as creating routing rules, configuring archiving and managing policies are still necessary whether you deploy from an on-premises server or a public cloud.
However, IT pros will need to develop new skill sets to meet the demand of a cloud-based service offering. Moving from building and supporting local IT infrastructure to managing IT services in the cloud requires additional skills and knowledge to execute effectively. In particular, the move to the cloud requires a shift in focus from routine day-to-day support to strategic thinking and value-added services.
This blog will identify new skills associated with 3 key types of as-a-service offerings made possible in the cloud – Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). you need to acquire in order to deliver and take advantage of cloud services.
IaaS is the capability to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run the software. Companies can choose to optimize their IT infrastructure by adopting an IaaS.
Infrastructure in the cloud is dynamic, always available, and has self-service capabilities. To take full advantage of IaaS, IT professionals must learn how to pool resources into a single structure to serve multiple customers. This is very similar to managing your own on-premises servers, except that you don’t have to invest in the actual hardware. Key areas of required knowledge include:
- Provisioning and management
- Monitoring and protecting
- Service management
- Security and compliance
- Performance optimization
A PaaS model consists of the software and hardware infrastructure to run applications, such as using Microsoft Windows Azure to deliver legacy apps.
IT professionals can use existing skills with Microsoft Visual Studio and Microsoft.NET to build applications and services hosted in the cloud. They are less constrained by resources such as memory and processing power in the cloud, but IT professionals must think architecturally about how to design the application.
- What services to purchase from Microsoft Azure?
- Do they put an application on the server using SQL Azure, Windows Azure storage services, etc?
- What virtual machine size should they use to optimize costs and performance?
The cloud developers must acquire the knowledge and understanding of how to use many components in the PaaS space and facilitate how they work together.
The skills developers need to invest in to prepare for the cloud include:
- Identity management – address security issues
- Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Rich Internet Application (RIA) services – create compelling websites and front ends
- Connects – work with the hosted virtual machines in Microsoft Azure
- Middleware – handle access controls, integration, and caching services, and create a bridge between an on-premises and off-premises solution
- Architecting Cloud Solutions – optimize costs by understanding data storage options and data partitioning
SaaS is the quickest way for MSPs to provide business value for their end customers via the cloud. With a SaaS model, MSPs only manage the applications and user data without having to build and control the underlying resources.
New skills required for a SaaS model, therefore, focus on learning technology skills associated with specific software and understanding how to bundle solutions together to empower end user productivity.
Let’s take Microsoft Office 365 for example.
Office 365 offers SME customers the capability to move key collaboration products and services such as Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft Lync Server from an on-premises deployment model to a public cloud model.
An Office 365 administrator will need the following technology skills:
- Foundational understanding of Office 365 and related technologies
- Infrastructure skills to determine basic requirements such as Directory Synchronization, mail routing and namespace planning, Active Directory Federation Services, DNS, bandwidth, etc.
- Security skills to determine internal security and privacy policies and address any concerns or legal requirements
- Migration and integration skills to manage your users and their mailboxes
- Industry-specific data retention compliance, as well as implementing custom workflows
- Hybrid deployment skills to determine coexistence and maintenance strategy between on-premises systems and the cloud
- Core skills in configuration of all Office 365 technologies with deep specialization in one or more of the following: SharePoint Server, Lync Server, and Exchange Server.
Therefore, skill development in a SaaS offering requires learning the ins and outs of the underlying software, and the best way to gain this knowledge is through usage and study of the documentations and guidelines of its provider. Often, SaaS providers have helpful customer support teams to walk you through the software.
Available Training and Resources
Technical training is critical to your success in the cloud. Here are some good resources to help you acquire new knowledge in the cloud:
- Cloud Platform University Online is an interactive, scenario-based training resource to equip you with the foundational elements of selling and supporting Microsoft cloud and enterprise technologies.
- Microsoft Partner Network Learning Paths provide training guides and certification options, organized by products, competencies, accreditations and business focus.
- Pluralsight offers several beginner, intermediate, and advanced training courses on Azure
- Opsgillity has more than 70 online classes focused on Architects, Developers, DevOps, Operations, Sales and Decision Makers.
It is tempting to want to do everything related to your business, but you should focus on core competencies and invest in gaining expertise in those specific areas. Retraining staff and hiring new expertise is a costly and time intensive undertaking – you can expedite time-to-market by finding cloud vendors that can take care of the heavy lifting in areas you lack resources or expertise.