AWS Managed Services - How Will it Affect the Market?

For those "in the know", AWS Managed Services has been a long time coming. Cloudreach was first involved in the program well over a year ago, testing and providing feedback to help shape the product throughout the prolonged beta, and we’re as thrilled as AWS that it’s finally available to the world. But with EC2 System Manager so recently announced you might well ask, what’s it for? How do they differ? Who’s it aimed at? To answer that, we need to take a little step back and look at cloud more generally.


Cloud for Enterprise

Cloud computing has always been loved by developers, and some born-in-cloud startups, most famously Netflix, have certainly reached large enterprise scale, but what of the titans of industry? At Cloudreach, we have seen household names like Time Inc, Hearst Media, and The Economist embrace AWS, leveraging its potential to stay one step ahead of their competitors, and we firmly believe that, no matter the organisation, undergoing a cloud transformation is not a question of if, but when. "Evolve or die", as they say.

But these are media corporations, some would retort. It’s in their very nature to constantly try new and innovative technologies to reach people. They can afford to experiment, and they certainly don’t have the same sorts of legal requirements to satisfy that banks and hospitals do. This is all true, and it’s why digital media providers were amongst the very first to make the leap to cloud, but they didn’t jump alone. In the UK, health insurance provider The Exeter has been successfully running in AWS for several years, gaining a strong competitive advantage as a result. Recently, the Financial Conduct Authority made the move. Financial behemoths across the globe are paying attention and eager to get their teeth into cloud technologies. "Fine", you say, "but they won’t do it until the time is right. And what about the medical industry? Law firms? When will they all actually move?"

Simple. Now.

The key thread binding banks, doctors, lawyers, et al together is risk aversion, and Managed Services is engineered from the ground up to provide the level of control these industries demand. It locks down the environment to a level simply not possible otherwise, guaranteeing that all changes and deployments are performed through a dedicated change management API. Even instance access requests pass through this process, creating a comprehensive log trail sufficient to satisfy even the toughest auditors. It’s this unprecedented level of security and control that makes Managed Services the key enterprise corporations will use to open the door to AWS. Cloud has become the new normal.

The Death Knell for MSPs?

Some might wonder why an AWS MSP partner like Cloudreach would be so eager to help develop a product like Managed Services. Isn’t the clue in the name? Won’t this kill off MSPs? Betteridge’s Law, as always, holds true – no. Managed Services does of course provide automated backup and patching services, with more advanced, enterprise-geared capabilities than its sibling EC2 System Manager, and yes, it can handle common infrastructure issues like low disk space and high CPU. But if those activities are all an MSP can handle, the writing has been on the wall for a long time. Managed Services is geared towards what Gartner calls Mode 1 environments – ones where resilience is key and the focus is on making something well-understood as efficient as possible. In this realm consistency is the watchword, and consistency leads to automation. Managed Services is the natural result.

As a next-gen MSP, however, Mode 1 is not the only world Cloudreach plays in. Gartner Mode 2 describes the bleeding edge, where new problems are solved in innovative ways every day. This rapidly changing landscape needs stability to survive just as much as a Mode 1 environment, but providing it requires very different methods – and that is where and that is where partners like Cloudreach are found.

Does that mean all is lost, then, for those who cannot provide Mode 2 services? Not quite. AWS Managed Services provides the very best in automated infrastructure support, but it doesn’t cover the platform layer – yet.

Diving in

Managed Services is now generally available, but it’s in the same category as Snowmobile – you can’t just click a button in the console to get it, you have to talk to an AWS rep. Cloudreach will be heading up the first partner-led Managed Services engagement very shortly, and whilst we’re sworn to secrecy on most of the details there’s some we can share.

An important thing to know about Managed Services is that it functions at an account level, so the first step in getting on board is setting up a new account and handing over the keys to the AWS Managed Services team. Aside from any consolidated billing configuration, from here on out you’ll never perform a single action that doesn’t go through the Managed Services APIs, and your authentication is entirely through federation to your on-prem Active Directory. The AWS Managed Services team then set up supporting infrastructure, such as jump hosts, help arrange a DirectConnect or site-to-site VPN connection to your existing infrastructure, and set up a one-way Active Directory trust. With the underlying infrastructure in place, you can start raising change requests through the Managed Services automation systems to deploy your infrastructure.

Unfortunately, much as we’d love to offer more information, we can only share so much in a blog post. This really is just a taster of the capabilities of AWS Managed Services – if you want to know more please reach out to your AWS Account Manager, or if you don’t have one then the world leading next-gen MSP, and the only one with experience migrating clients to the platform, is just at the other end of the Contact Us button.