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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Joe Graves, CIO of Stratus (Part 3)

Posted on Sunday, Dec 4th 2011

SM: Give me a range of examples of the kinds of managed services your clients are providing.

JG: A good use case that we’ve come across is an independent software vendor (ISV). The company deploys an application to its customers and the application runs on an entire environment that the ISV deploys to its customers. And the customers come back to the ISV and ask it to be their MSP because this company just wants to focus on its software. The ISV has asked if we could take over managing the hardware environment on its behalf.

SM: And what kind of an application is this?

JG: This is the health care application. It’s an application that manages doctors’ offices, medical practices.

SM: It seems like health care IT services is one industry that is turning to the managed service provider model, and that is something that you’re catering to?

JG: Right. Another example that we’re exploring is an enterprise that offers a packaged solution. It looks like a box, but there are many components in that box, and the enterprise does not have a means to manage its solution as a single entity. That enterprise is in discussions with us about how to manage that solution.

SM: How many such managed service providers are you catering to?

JG: Well, this is just in its nascent stage. It’s a product that we’re still working on developing. We have a small number of alpha users. We’re exploring additional market opportunities.

SM: If you’ve decided to invest in a product, you must have some analysis around it that there are 1,000; 5,000; 20,000 managed service providers out there who fall in your target market, yes?

JG: Yes, it’s a very large number. I’m more on the technical side than on the marketing side. I do not have those numbers off the top of my head. But I know, for example, that [there are], literally, thousands and thousands of these small MSPs that are our target audience. And it’s in a fairly immature stage, so we feel fairly confident that we will have a good offering in this marketplace.

SM: What are the technical hot buttons of architecting a solution like this?

JG: Because we’re using a number of existing software as a service solutions and platform as a service, what we’re really spending our time on are integrations between these tools, mashing up the tools so that when you go from one tool to another, it looks like you’re in the same tool. We are working on the security model, some things like single sign-on so that as you navigate along the solution, you’re not logging in over and over.

SM: I’m going to switch to the entrepreneurship question. In this managed service provider space, you are going after one piece of it. What other open problems do you see, where you think there are opportunities for entrepreneurs to play?

JG: I believe that many of these remote offices, these offices on the edge, like the doctors’ offices and what not, I think there’s a huge opportunity for moving those into the cloud as opposed to having on-prem solutions. So, perhaps putting the server in a Rackspace and then having just thin clients in the doctor’s office or the financial office or whatever it is.

SM: But that space is full of practice management players who are trying to move, in various different ways, these doctors’ offices to a cloud solution. That space is quite crowded. I guess one thought that comes to my mind as I’m listening to you talk is that this managed service provider trend is intriguing. There have been a tremendous number of software as a service providers that have been birthed in the last decade. The whole software as a service movement has really taken off in the last decade.

I think within that spectrum, some of those software as a service providers would fit the model that you just described of people wanting managed services to happen – not just a public cloud application but also a managed service. So, there could actually be an entrepreneurial opportunity to build managed services themselves.

JG: Yes. Yes. And then also, instead of just offering a SaaS solution, offer a SaaS solution with support and, in effect, become the MSP for the SaaS solution for that customer.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Joe Graves, CIO of Stratus
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