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Containers Create Growth Opportunity for MSPs

As the public cloud becomes more ubiquitous, there are still many traditional MSPs struggling with making their full transition to a cloud practice. To become a NextGen MSP, IT practices must move away from a break-fix mentality and transition to delivering and managing a variety of cloud services for customers. Enter container technology.

IT professionals tend to focus on infrastructure but there’s a whole other cloud discussion going on today in the Dev-ops area/web apps development world. That focus is on containers. As MSPs get more familiarized with IaaS in the cloud, NextGen MSPs who are already fluent in cloud will look at how to pivot their business to offer more.

Offering managed services around containers could be an opportunity for those who are willing to invest in a new business unit.

Containers help MSPs standardize how code is deployed. This makes it easy to build workflows for applications that run between on-premises and cloud IT environments. Containers speed up application migration to the cloud.

MSPs using the technology then have life a whole lot easier, Technologists can package entire applications and move them to the cloud without needing to make any code changes.

Containers Create Business Opportunity

Containers are like VMs on ESXi or Hyper-V. However, one key difference is that a container does not include an operating system whereas a guest VM does. Containers are used to deploy web apps in mainly mid-to-enterprise-sized companies.

The advantage of not having an OS in a container is a secure ease-of-use. MSPs don’t have to worry about patching and library compatibility if the developer decides to upgrade to a new version of a specific library or use a new API for their app.

The most popular container solution is Docker. In order to manage and scale web apps in Docker, a container orchestration solution is required to facilitate scaling the app. This is where Kubernetes comes in. Kubernetes is not the same as Docker. Where Docker is the container technology, Kubernetes is the open source software originally developed by Google that orchestrates Docker.

Containers Solve Problems

Containers rose to popularity to solve very common issues between developers and Dev-ops folks. Developers write code, give instructions to Dev-ops on how to deploy the code in VMs. Often, Dev-ops would run into issues when the developers update their code or APIs would break. Scaling the web apps both vertically and horizontally was also an issue.

Containers came to solve those issues by removing the dependencies of the OS from each container. By removing the OS, the technology allows each piece of the app to boot faster, become less dependent on the OS version, and improve compatibility.

MSPs Can Fill a Market Void

Is there a need for managed Kubernetes and Docker services? I would say yes. Docker and Kubernetes technologies are still considered new, and over the last four years have seen explosive growth. So much growth that IBM’s acquisition of RedHat was based around gaining expertise in those types of workloads.

RedHat (prior to IBM) also acquired CoreOS last year, which was another expertise grab on their technology around Kubernetes management. Larger-sized companies are looking for container experts, but the demand is larger than the supply right now.

Address the Challenges to Gain Success

MSPs with groups that service mid-size companies are in an ideal position to take advantage of this demand, but several challenges exist. For example:

  • Most MSPs don’t offer application development services or Linux expertise and lack the skillset needed to start this type of practice with current resources.
  • Kubernetes and Docker are quite complex technologies to master. Expertise in Dev-ops and Infrastructure as Code is required to enter this market.
  • Talent acquisition for Dev-ops resources in this area is a huge challenge because there are few engineers with the needed expertise, and their talent comes a huge salary premium.

How MSPs Get into Container Work

Opportunities to provide managed services around containers will be specifically in the areas of logging/analytics, monitoring/alerting, and optimization. The key ideas of streamlining technology decisions and the removing day-to-day mundane support issues from over-burdened IT staff are always selling points of an MSP.

The same is true about offering managed services around containers. Developers and Dev-ops teams consider logging/analytics/monitoring/alerting tasks to be something they can outsource in order to free them up to focus on application development.

There are many tools that manage logs collected from the hypervisor level, all the way up to web apps generated logs. Legacy MSP services could then be introduced into those clients further expanding services into this account base.

Get Started Today

This was just a glimpse into what the future of the MSP IT practice could become. Right now, the focus should be converting fully into an MRR model with most of the revenue being generated around cloud services and value-added services.

Honing the skills on the public cloud today should be a top priority as it’s the foundation of the future. Microsoft Azure should be the public cloud of choice for MSPs. Start by moving on-premises services such as Active Directory/File Server to the cloud and move closer to containers by providing full IT in the cloud, This includes hosting desktops, all servers, storage, backup, and disaster recovery.

Nerdio is a suite of tools written by our team of software developers and tech nerds to help you hone and manage IT in the cloud for your customers with ease. Partners are leveraging Nerdio to solidify their position as a NextGen MSP.

It will be quite interesting to see how this landscape changes in the next few years. M&A activity is rampant in the technology space. Who knows what’s next but managed services providers are certainly here to stay and so is container technology. Why not bring the two together?

AVD MANAGEMENT

Multi-Cloud and On-Premises Deployment with Azure Stack HCI (Coming Soon)

Deploy Azure Virtual Desktop in Azure and extend the session host VM placement to on-premises and other cloud using Azure Stack HCI. Nerdio Manager automates deployment of session hosts, AVD agent installation, and full integration into the AVD deployment in Azure.

Create a brand new Azure Virtual Desktop environment or allow Nerdio Manager to discover an existing deployment, connecting to existing resources, and manage them.

Deploy Nerdio Manager from Azure Marketplace and configure a new AVD environment with an easy to follow, step-by-step configuration wizard. First group of users can access their AVD desktop in less than 2 hours.

Service providers, system integrators, and consultants can leverage Nerdio Manager’s scripted AVD deployment template. Create complete environments with desktop images, host pools, and auto-scaling in minutes.

Create and manage AVD environments that span Azure regions and subscriptions. Quickly link Vnets and resource groups and manage AVD deployments world-wide from unified portal.

Link multiple Azure tenants under the same Nerdio Manager instance and manage AVD deployments that span Azure AD tenants. User identities and session host VMs can run in separate tenants for maximum flexibilty and security.

Deploy and manage AVD environments that span across sovereign Azure Clouds. Cross-sovereign cloud support allows identity (e.g. users and groups) to be in one Azure Cloud, while session host VMs are in another Azure Cloud.

Management of workspaces, host pools, app groups, RemoteApps & custom RDP settings

Administer every aspect of AVD with Nerdio Manager including workspaces, host pools, application groups, RemoteApp publishing, RDP properties, session time limits, FSLogix, and much, much more. Every Azure service that AVD relies on can be managed with Nerdio Manager.

Deploy and manage AVD session host VMs. Hosts can be created manually or with auto-scaling, deleted on-demand or on a schedule, re-imaged to apply updates, run a scripted action, resized, put into or taken out of drain mode, and more.

Manage user sessions across the entire AVD environment, within a workspace, host pool or on a single host. Monitor session status, disconnect or log off the user, shadow or remote control to provide support, or send user an on-screen message.

End users have the ability to log into Nerdio Manager with their Azure AD credentials and manage their own session, restart their desktop VM, or start a session host if none are started in a host pool. (Ability to resize and re-image own desktop is coming soon.)

Create, link, and manage Azure Files shares including AD domain join. Synchronize Azure Files permissions with host pools, configure quotas, and enable SMB multi-channel. Manage file lock handles and configure Azure Files auto-scaling to increase quota as needed.

Create, link, and manage Azure NetApp Files accounts, capacity pools and volumes. Configure provisioned volume size, monitor usage, and use auto-scaling to automatically adjust volume and capacity pool size to accommodate the needed capacity and latency requirements.

FSLogix configuration can be complex and overwheling, but not with Nerdio Manager. Create one or more FSLogix profiles with all the needed options, point at one or more Azure Files, Azure NetApp Files, or server locations and select from VHDLocations, CloudCache and Azure Blob storage modes.

Multiple identity source profiles can be set up and used automatically on different host pools. Active Directory, Azure AD DS, and Native Azure AD are all supported. Choose the appropriate directory profile when adding a host pool and all VMs will automatically join this directory when being created.

Create a copy of a host pool with all of its settings: auto-scale config, app groups and RemoteApps, MSIX AppAttach, user/group assignments, VM deployment settings, etc. Save time by creating host pool “templates” that can be cloned to any Workspace, Azure region or subscription instead of starting from scratch.

Apply user session time limits at host pool level. Automatically log off disconnected sessions, limit the duration of idle sessions, control empty RemoteApp session behavior and more.

Assign Azure AD users to personal desktops to ensure the user will log into a pre-configured VM. Un-assign personal desktops from users who leave the organization and re-use these VMs for new users.

Pre-configure custom Azure tags for all Azure resources associated with each host pool. Tags can be used for charge-back and cost allocation by host pool.

When creating session hosts using NV-series VMs NVIDIA and AMD GPU drivers are automatically installed.

Move existing host pools from Fall 2019 (Classic) object model to Spring 2020 (ARM) object model. Choose to whether to move or copy user assignments. Existing session hosts are automatically migrated or new ones can be created in the ARM host pool.

Automatically enable and configure AVD integration with Azure monitor. Zero configuration required. Azure Monitor Insights for AVD can be used instead of or in conjunction with Sepago Monitor.

AVD personal desktops to Windows 365 Cloud PC migration (Coming Soon)

Migrate users from AVD personal desktops to Windows 365 Enterprise Cloud PCs using an existing image and user assignment. (Coming soon)

WINDOWS 365 ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT

Cloud PC License Usage Optimization (Coming Soon)

Cloud PC device lifecycle management

Cloud PC user group assignment

Intune primary user management on Cloud PCs

Migrate AVD personal desktops to Cloud PCs (Coming Soon)

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