The Next Multi-Billion-Dollar Market For Service Providers – Part 2

In a previous blog post, I talked about what is a potential multi-billion dollar market for MSPs given the shift in infrastructure and applications from traditional silos to cloud-based infrastructure and cloud-native applications.

In this post, I will present a new private cloud architecture that allows you to build multi-million-dollar cloud businesses without learning how to build a cloud. I will discuss how MSPs can actually offer a competitive solution to their customers without high cost or complexity but with much higher control, performance and most importantly margin!

A cloud-based infrastructure typically consists of the following components:

  1. Software-defined compute
  2. Software-defined storage
  3. Software-defined networking
  4. Cloud operations – monitoring, upgrades, events, alarms, capacity planning
  5. Orchestration software for application deployment, provisioning
  6. Showback, chargeback for billing, cost management

This is a long list of components that typically require stitching together multiple software and hardware solutions along with expertise in one or more software stacks to build, operate and manage the cloud. For example, one can get servers from Lenovo/HPE/Dell, storage from Pure storage/Nimble storage/NetApp/EMC, software stacks from VMware such as vCloud software suite, hire a few VMware experts and create a cloud solution. Every component here has multiple options to choose from. After doing all this heavy lifting, you will finally get a cloud infrastructure that you can offer to customers for consumption. In many cases, you will have to create an application portal on top to offer an application-as-a-service instead of just infrastructure.

There are three main costs in a cloud:

  1. Hardware
  2. Software
  3. Operations

Different technologies address the cost and complexity at these three layers. For example, hyper-convergence addresses the hardware cost by converging compute and storage and using standard x86 servers with local disks attached to them. Vendors like VMware (vCloud), Microsoft (Azure pack) and Red Hat (OpenStack) provide software suites to build a cloud using any standard hardware. These software suites convert a set of servers into a cloud. In addition, there are a lot of vendors providing monitoring and management solutions to help with operating a cloud environment.

One can argue about which set of solutions is best and does the most in lowering the cost and complexity of building, managing, operating a cloud. But the best cloud is where you don’t have to worry about building, managing and operating it at all.

The best way to reduce the complexity of something is to eliminate it completely!

So how do you offer a cloud service without learning how to build a cloud?

ZeroStack Software-Managed Cloud

At ZeroStack, we have built a cloud solution that converts any set of industry-standard servers with local disks into a unified cloud infrastructure. The solution consists of two software components: (1) an operating system called Z-COS (for ZeroStack Cloud Operating System) that you install on servers and (2) a cloud management application running as a web service (also called Z-Brain).

The operating system consists of a hypervisor, cloud software and a highly resilient control plane that knows how to pool all the resources across servers, bring up all the services and monitor the cluster for any software or hardware failures. Telemetry from this cluster is reported to the cloud management application (Z-Brain) for analytics, machine learning and improving efficiency of the cloud.

By combining an on-premises, distributed control plane with web-based monitoring and analytics, we are able to offer a cloud to customers that is completely managed by our software stack and support. There is no need for a customer to understand how a cloud is built. Operations like upgrades, patching and failure handling are all done by our software.

There are several other features that are built into the platform such as VM high availability, reliable storage and data management, placement policies, an App store, cost management and GPU resource allocation.

The figure below shows the overall architecture and some of the key capabilities.

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