Cognitive Computing Promises Profit Boost for MSPs
With each passing day, it's clearer that the delivery of managed IT services is becoming more automated. Arguably, most managed service providers are now engaged in nothing less than an arms race. By automating multiple IT services efficiently, MSPs can reduce their costs significantly. In turn, it's almost inevitable those MSPs will pass those savings to their customers to gain market share at the expense of rivals.
The challenge MSPs face today is that developing a highly automated service is an expensive proposition. For these reasons, many MSPs are now faced with the difficult decision of either trying to build their own framework or license one developed by someone else. More often than not, the framework in question might have been created by another MSP.
That's exactly the scenario that is playing out around IPsoft, an MSP that has invested heavily in creating its IPcenter framework for automating the management of IT services. IPsoft is taking that concept a step further by adding a layer of cognitive computing capabilities in the form of a virtual digital assistant known as Amelia to create an Apollo platform that eliminates the need to hire IT staff to handle all Service Level One and most Service Level Two support calls. For all intents and purposes, routine IT service requests, ranging from configuring a printer to allocating virtual machine resources, are now being handled by a machine.
While IPsoft competes with other MSPs, it also licenses its core technologies to organizations such as IBM, Cisco, PwC and Navisite (a unit of Charter Communications that provides managed hosting services in the cloud).
Dan Jolley, vice president of customer operations for Navisite, said the IPcenter platform is a "game changer" in terms of how IT services are provided. Not only will there be less reliance on IT specialists, but more emphasis can now be placed by lower volume services that provide much higher margins, Jolley said.
Today, too much of the Navisite business revolves around high-volume tasks that yield low margins, Jolley said. The rise of autonomics, coupled with cognitive computing, will enable Navisite to rely on lower-cost IT generalists to deliver more of the higher margin personalized services, he added.
Of course, just about every vendor that has invested in cognitive computing, including IBM, is trying to figure out how to apply these technologies to the delivery of IT services. IPsoft clearly sees the rise of these technologies as an opportunity to license its core technologies to other IT service providers, rather than using it to try and drive every potential competitor from the market. Naturally, MSPs will have to decide on their own whether licensing a platform from a rival makes financial sense for them.
In the meantime, MSPs need to recognize that a future where the delivery of IT services becomes highly automated has already arrived. As renowned author William Gibson once noted, "The future has arrived. It's just not evenly distributed."
The difference between merely surviving and thriving as an MSP going forward will come down to where any MSP falls on the distribution curve concerning how IT autonomics and cognitive computing frameworks actually wind up getting employed.
Clearly, the future of managed services is about to become much less labor-intensive than it is today.
Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for more than 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.