Service Blocks – build your own cloud managed service

Service Blocks

Over a twenty-year career buying and selling IT services, ten of which I’ve spent building my own managed service practice, it’s fair to say I’ve seen some challenges. The market in which we operate has evolved substantially over this time. Starting – for me at least – with the provision of ‘all you can eat’ IT support, we can now outsource routine operations to a specialised managed service provider (MSP) to perform the work, with the purpose of creating a commercial advantage for both parties in the process.

This model, however, has an inherent flaw. Loosely, the key to managed services is the repeatability of the work being undertaken, leveraged across a wider customer base. The more efficient an MSP is at repeating the required process (and fixing errors when things go wrong), the more effective the service we receive. With this aim, MSPs inevitably look to standardise the services they deliver, creating products that cover ‘X’ but don’t cover ‘Y’.

As the underlying tech that MSPs support has changed, this challenge has been exacerbated. As an example, when we operated in a world of implementing dedicated hardware to run static workloads, in purpose built datacentres, the cost optimisation challenge was rarely examined by the customer; beyond selecting the right MSP and signing the initial contract. Now we’re working in a Public Cloud world, whether it’s delivered by customers or MSPs, cost optimisation is always a must!

The rate at which features are released by the four leading platform providers, the fluctuation of demand for resources (including the ability to auto-scale in response), and the potential for a lack of governance to generate large and unnecessary costs, means public cloud consumers not examining cost on a regular or automated basis are running at significant risk. What’s delivered as part of a cloud managed service now is far greater and more complex than managed services delivered ten years ago.

When we refined our business model to move into the Public Cloud MSP market, we took a holistic view of what customers should receive as part of our service. What we learnt is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Cue Service Blocks, the theme of a recent Rackspace hosted event that I was delighted to be able to chair, and where lively discussions on the night suggested the concept would benefit a range of companies and circumstances.

Compound advantage

One key piece of feedback around the ability to tailor services – customers are more likely to procure a single tailored solution using a Service Blocks concept than integrate services (i.e. design and architecture) from other providers. A compound advantage was that they knew such suppliers would invest in long-term relationships and would be responsible for the deployment of workloads, as well as the management of those workloads on an ongoing basis.

True flexibility

If you combine this approach with the ability to right-place workloads across a multitude of public cloud platforms, customers really can implement the best solution for their organisations. As an example, customers could procure an AWS managed service that takes care of cost optimisation, combined with an Azure managed service that ‘keeps the lights on’ whilst focusing in detail on performance management and auto-scaling.

Having operated customer side myself, I know how valuable this flexibility is. I’ve worked with MSPs that have tried to shoehorn my requirements into one of many options, none of which were quite right. They’d shift a bit and I’d adjust what I needed – an awkward compromise no-one felt good about.

Build your own

Service Blocks remove such problems, providing bespoke elements that were previously unavailable in isolation and increasing the flexibility of the service. At our event, Innospec Head of Infrastructure Adam Clark was enthused about the model, noting this made Innospec and Rackspace’s mutual partnership a roaring success.

We’ve recently succeeded in winning a contract to manage and monitor several of Innospec’s AWS environments and it wouldn’t have been possible without Service Blocks. We’ve also agreed to provide services at the application layer and whilst this isn’t part of Service Blocks, our experts can provide both types of the managed service – which made us the right choice for Innospec as a customer.

The advantage of Service Blocks for Innospec and others is that, like with a Lego kit, it’s possible to keep building. Services like tooling, architecture and design, management and support, cost governance, and complex operations become modules where you plug, play and pay only when needed. It’s a great way to stay agile and flexible, keep costs down, accelerate transformation, and find all the pieces to complete the managed services model.

If you want to learn more about service blocks and cloud platforms then get in touch with our experts today, wherever you might be on your migration journey.

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