A large number of the MSPs had been using open source free tools before, and as they had grown in size and operations, realized that there is a cost to "free" which can add up pretty quickly. That made them switch to commercial products which focused on ease of use and lower TCO. This was a first step towards higher efficiency in their NOC.
Interoperability between the different systems becomes an important requirement. Looking at the ITIL cheatsheet, at the very least you need monitoring, service desk, inventory and a billing system. Having an open API, and better still, existing connectors between these different systems so as to reduce the human interaction and automate as much as possible is an important factor. Even more useful, and often overlooked, is Workflow management - when a new customer is brought on board, where are the devices created, how do the monitoring and billing systems get provisioned, and how is notification escalated between the monitoring and ticketing systems.
Automation and intelligence within each system is next on the list - how can each of the systems (monitoring, service desk, inventory, billing) provide more efficiency within their own functional areas. In helpdesk systems, being able to prioritize alarms, auto-escalation, schedules, etc. are useful features. In monitoring platforms, being able to reduce the noise and false alarms means faster time to resolution with fewer resources.
While reducing opex has always been important to management, it seems to go through its phases. But the current vendor and analyst focus on automation and analytics is a good indication that using smarter tools to reduce opex is at the top of everyone's priority again.
Vikas Aggarwal is CEO of Zyrion Inc., a leading provider of Cloud and Network Monitoring software for large enterprises and Managed Service Providers. You can read more about Zyrion's cloud monitoring solution here.