Cost reduction in delivering services is a key to the managed service provider business model.  MSPs work to reduce the cost of remotely managing some IT service that could be running on premise or in the cloud.

Of course, the single biggest cost associated with delivering any IT service is still labor. MSPs not only have to invest in acquiring a particular set of technologies, but the expertise required to manage them is invariably their single biggest expense. Naturally, the newer the technology, the harder it is to find someone with the appropriate level of expertise. And with each successive wave of new technology, the IT environment as a whole gets more complex to manage.

Converged systems

As a result, MSPs have been at the forefront of the shift to converged systems. Made up of highly integrated servers, storage and networking gear, these converged systems can be more easily administered by “super administrators” without having to invest in dedicated server, storage and networking specialists. The interesting question going forward is just how far can this convergence go?

We’re already at the point where virtual desktops are being delivered and managed via the cloud using virtual machines deployed on converged infrastructure. As that trend continues, the need for separate desktop and server administrators is likely to be reduced over time. It’s clear that both VMware and Citrix see this trend emerging quickly. VMware, for example, has rolled out a Safe Passage program for converting rival desktop virtualization customers to its platform. Citrix, meanwhile, is investing in everything from the desktop and virtual machines to cloud management platforms and wide area network (WAN) optimization.

IT management convergence

It’s still early, but Karl Brown, senior director of product marketing for CloudBridge WAN optimization platforms at Citrix, says over time these diverse IT areas are going to converge from a management perspective. It’s already next to impossible to deliver a quality IT experience at scale that doesn’t traverse multiple IT disciplines.

The challenge MSPs face today is finding a way to manage all those IT services in a way that doesn’t require them to throw administrators at every IT specialty. Instead, Brown says they will look to vendors that are capable of pulling all those services together under a common management framework that the average administrator can actually master.

From an MSP perspective the rise of such frameworks should finally provide some long overdue welcome relief to a cost of IT labor issue that has been a major drag on the ability to profitably deliver managed services for as long as any MSP can remember.

Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.