So You Want to Be a Hosting Provider? (Part 3)
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the options available to aspiring hosting providers:
- Buy hardware and build it yourself.
- Rent hardware and build it yourself.
- Rent VMs (e.g., Amazon, Azure) and build it yourself.
- Partner with someone who has already built it.
We went on to address the costs and other considerations of buying or renting hardware.
Then, in Part 2, we discussed using the Amazon EC2 cloud, with cost estimates based on the pricing tool that Citrix provides as part of the Citrix Service Provider program. We stressed that Amazon has built a great platform for building a hosting infrastructure for thousands of users, provided that you’ve got the cash up front to pay for reserved instances, and that your VMs only need to run for an average of 14 hours per day.
Our approach is a little different.
First, we believe that VARs and MSPs need a platform that will do an excellent job for their smaller customers – particular those who do not have a large staff of IT professionals, or those who are using what AMI Partners, in a study they did on behalf of Microsoft, referred to as an “Involuntary IT Manager” (IITM). These are the people who end up managing their organizations’ IT infrastructures because they have an interest in technology, or perhaps because they just happen to be better at it than anyone else in the organization, but who have other job responsibilities unrelated to IT. Often these individuals are senior managers, partners, or owners, and in nearly all cases could bring more value to the organization if they could spend 100% of their time doing what they were originally hired to do. Getting rid of on-site servers and moving data and applications to a private hosted cloud will allow these people to regain that lost productivity.
Second, we believe that most of these customers are going to need access to their cloud infrastructure on a 24/7 basis. Smaller companies tend to be headed by entrepreneurial people who don’t work traditional hours, and who tend to hire managers who also don’t work traditional hours. Turning their systems off for 10 hours per day to save on run-time costs simply isn’t going to be acceptable.
Third, we believe that the best mix of security and cost-effectiveness for most customers is to have a multi-tenant Active Directory, Exchange, and SharePoint infrastructure, but to dedicate one or more XenApp server(s) to each customer, along with a file server and whatever other application servers they may require (e.g., SQL Server, accounting server, etc.). This is done not only for security reasons, but to avoid “noisy neighbor” problems from poorly behaved applications (or users).
In ManageOps’s multi-tenant hosting infrastructure, each customer is a separate Organizational Unit (OU) in our Active Directory. Each customer’s servers are in a separate OU, and are isolated on a customer-specific vLAN. Access from the public Internet is secured with a common Watchguard perimeter firewall and a Citrix NetScaler SSL/VPN appliance. Multi-tenant customers who need a permanent VPN connection to one or more office locations can have their own Internet port and their own firewall.
We also learned early on that some customers prefer not to participate in any kind of multi-tenant infrastructure, and others are prevented from doing so by security and compliance regulations. To accommodate these customers, we provision completely isolated environments with their own Domain Controllers, Exchange Servers, etc. A customer that does not participate in our multi-tenant infrastructure always gets a customer-specific firewall and NetScaler, and customer-specific Domain Controllers. At their option, they can still use our multi-tenant Exchange Server, or have their own.
Finally, we believe that many VARs and MSPs will benefit from prescriptive guidance for not just how to build a hosting infrastructure, but how to sell it. That’s why our partners have access to a document template library that covers how to do the necessary discovery to properly scope a cloud project, how to determine what cloud resources will be required and how to price out a customized private hosted cloud environment, how to position the solution to the customer, how to write the final proposal, how to handle customer data migration, and much, much more.
We believe that partnering with ManageOps makes sense for VARs and MSPs because that’s the world we came from. Our hosting platform was built by a VAR/MSP for VARs/MSPs, and we used every bit of the experience we gained from twenty years of working with Citrix technology. That’s the ManageOps difference.
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