At the recent Cloud Computing Expo, Unisys VP of Global Outsourcing Solutions Sam Gross told MSPs that they needed to move to the cloud or go the way of the dodo. I promised I would ask him how this could be when so many MSPs were having trouble monetizing the cloud. Here’s his answer.

The first thing Gross wants solutions providers to know is that customer expectations of IT are changing, and that managed services no longer just consists of merely provisioning something for your client. A definition of what “cloud computing” is is far less important than stepping back and taking a look at how the services are consumed, he says.

A customer would think you were insane if you took two days to get around to bringing their laptop onto the wireless network from Ethernet -- the point being, Gross says, that users now expect a certain level of do-it-yourself in day-to-day tasks that would have belonged to an MSP 10 years ago, and they’re going to expect that more and more going forward.

“The service that an MSP offers is now different,” he says.

The path to cloud profitability is twofold, Gross says. The first key concept is what he calls “delivery,” which is really to say that MSPs need to leverage their expertise and their cloud service portfolio to give their customers a really, truly ready-to-go product that addresses their needs while also giving them that element of self-service. There’s no way to get ahead while you’re charging based on the licensing fees of individual software products.

The other part of that equation is giving customers a stable, secure, and compliant infrastructure platform for these services to live on - otherwise they’re never going to trust your cloud. Gross says this is an area in which Unisys excels, as their Stealth solution secures the “core” of a cloud through data masking rather than just patrolling the perimeter with things like error logs and anti-viruses.

So let’s boil it down: Gross is essentially arguing that customers want always-on services on demand and don’t care how they get there, and that the MSP’s role going forward is going to be to leverage their expertise and security rather than a single product or portfolio to get it to them. Hard to argue with that.

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