After checking in with multiple managed services software executives, I think it's safe to say that the managed services market continues to enjoy double-digit growth. But instead of resting on your laurels, top MSPs need to rethink the market right now -- while the going is still good. Here's why.

This week is inflection point of sorts for me. Our team is attending Cisco Partner Summit 2012 in San Diego, Oracle Industry Analyst World in Redwood Shores, and the OpenStack Design Summit & Conference in San Francisco. We're also keeping close tabs on Synnex Varnex (New Orleans) and the Microsoft Management Summit (Las Vegas), among other conferences.

At each event we're hearing about plenty of on-premises opportunity ahead for MSPs because:
  • We don't think small businesses will ever hire back IT staffs;
  • small businesses will always need application guidance, even if the applications shift to the cloud; and
  • endpoints will always require professional management. And that need is growing amid all the mobile device management (MDM) and BYOD (bring your own device) chatter.

Have You Studied This?

Still, we're trying to look far beyond the traditional MSP industry -- and I'm paying particularly close attention to OpenStack, the open source cloud platform.

Admittedly, open source for managed services has never quite lived up to some of the earlier hype. (Yes, I was guilty of some hype myself.) And I'm not suggesting that MSPs need to become OpenStack cloud experts. But here are three big important trends to note:
  1. Most of the major IT vendors -- Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM -- have lined up to support OpenStack. HP's entire public cloud will run upon OpenStack.
  2. In theory, the OpenStack standard will allow businesses to more easily move applications between private and public clouds. That means OpenStack could also become a prime hybrid cloud play.
  3. Some MSPs and cloud services providers are using OpenStack as a foundation to introduce new managed services.

OpenStack Blends With Managed Services

Consider the situation over at Rackspace. The cloud services provider this week unveiled numerous OpenStack services, including two MSP-oriented services.
  • Cloud Monitoring – which helps customers monitor their infrastructure and applications proactively, including OpenStack Clouds.
  • Cloud Networks, powered by OpenStack – this solution is designed to allow customers to manage logically abstracted network services.
Watch those services over the next few years, and I bet they will trickle down from the mid-market into small business.

The Biggest Challenge of All

For MSPs, it's time to work even harder on a balancing act. Yes, continue to maintain your existing circle of MSP influencers and attend MSP-centric events where you compare notes with industry leaders. But find a way to break out and explore new markets.

You can't master the entire cloud. But you will need to make a few strategic, targeted bets in cloud computing. I will be exploring one of those potential bets -- OpenStack -- on Thursday. Along the way, I'll keep in mind that market alternatives -- such as Citrix CloudStack -- are emerging.

Citrix is a prime example of a company that has continually reinvented itself from multi-user computing to virtualization, cloud and collaboration services. Don't sit still. Find the courage to keep reinventing your business is well.