Over the last few months, we’ve seen increasing interest from managed service providers (MSPs) in architecting their offer based on SoftIron as their underlying storage platform. If the “hardware doesn’t matter” mantra holds true anywhere, it should be within managed service provision where the service itself is the “brand” being sold, not the underlying hardware. So why then is there so much interest in our “task-specific” approach?

 

When we engage in these conversations, a number of common themes emerge amongst the myriad challenges and choices MSPs are faced with today. Here, we break down the top 4 issues confronting them and share some insight into why our task-specific approach for OSS storage is gaining popularity.

 

Disaggregating your hardware and software platforms

If you’re a service provider trying to build an architecture that gives you the greatest flexibility, then we’ll often see a design goal to disaggregate the hardware and software platform choices. A “software-defined” approach, naturally, immediately checks this box. You could choose a proprietary software-defined architecture, but that would limit your hardware choices to those approved to run that software, thereby limiting any future flexibility by tying yourself to one particular vendor and their software platform. This is one of the reasons many MSPs look to open source for this piece of the puzzle – and the defacto standard for open source, software-defined storage, is Ceph.

 

Getting Value from all the tools in the “Swiss Army Knife”

It’s common for service providers to want to offer a variety of services ranging from backup and disaster recovery, to coverage for “burst” capability when demand quickly escalates, data orchestration across different deployment scenarios, as well a range of more standard storage offers based on file, block or object storage needs. Ceph’s adaptability and flexibility make it a natural contender because of its “swiss army knife-like” ability to handle multiple scenarios and linear scalability. (Still not sure I’ll ever use the fish descaler though!)

We’re finding that MSPs “land” on Ceph as a great strategic choice, but then struggle to get the best from it by running it on generic hardware in their testing, and thus become daunted by the complexity of its many options in deployment and use. They very quickly look for alternate methods in which they can simplify Ceph adoption at scale.

 

A Secure, Resilient, Scalable Architecture

When your entire business relies on the quality of your service and adherence to customer SLAs, then the resilience of your chosen architecture is crucial. Ceph, again, scores well here with its inherent resilience due to the way in which it distributes and replicates data, ensuring no single point of failure. As the number of customers scale and the demands increase, the linear nature by which it allows more nodes to be added is ideal, scaling performance linearly as required.

When it comes to hardware, however, that can be a different story. A high availability, resilient architecture needs tight alignment between the hardware and software layers – something unachievable with “bare metal” appliances running open-source software on them. For example; the replacement of failed drives needs to be fast, painless, and be achieved with no service disruption. Our task-specific approach allows granular levels of control, enabling us to help staff visually locate the exact caddy and specific drive that require attention, and signal Ceph that a change is about to take place, stopping Ceph from reconfiguring when the caddy of drives is temporarily “lost”. Genius. When your hardware and software “layers” aren’t talking to each other you’ll never get to this level of integration.

 

The Ability to Make Good Margins

Last, but by no means least, the architecture has to enable MSPs to make a good margin on their service, from day one through the long term. Our competitive pricing, over and above the  strategic choices highlighted here, directly translate into margin through:

  • Multiple product offers on the same platform enable flexibility to differentiate price points of different services and to flex the offer as needs change
  • Reduced management complexity needing fewer, less highly skilled staff
  • Linear scalability eliminating future “forklift” upgrades of hardware as the business grows
  • Integrated support of both hardware and software, eliminating blame games and any “finger-pointing”, speeding resolution of any issue identified
  • The ability to move to another hardware vendor’s solution and still run Ceph – ensuring a long term competitive environment for future business
  • Ceph’s flexible interfaces enabling the MSP to differentiate in the ways they implement provisioning of services, billing and multi-tenancy into their architecture

 

We believe there’s no better platform to build out the storage for a managed service than SoftIron. It’s not surprising many MSPs are reaching the same conclusion. Talk to us to arrange a test drive, here.