Two New 'Planets' Join Microsoft's Solar System

By Sharon Linsenbach  |  Print this article Print

Hosting provider The Planet's two new satellite brands will offer customers more service choices and allow the company to go head-to-head with Rackspace and other hosting providers, including, perhaps, Microsoft's own online services.

The Planet today announced the launches of two new satellite brands that will offer customers more service choices and allow the company to go head-to-head with Rackspace and other hosting providers, including, perhaps, Microsoft's own online services.

The Planet announced its entry into managed hosting under the Planet Northstar brand and the addition of advanced services under the Planet Alpha Dedicated Services moniker at Microsoft's WPC (Worldwide Partner Conference) held July 7-10 in Houston. The company also unveiled its proactive planning methodology, Anticipation Advantage, as well as a new, comprehensive Web site.

Microsoft, for its part, announced it will offer Exchange Online, Office SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online, Office Live Meeting, and Dynamics CRM Online as subscription services, putting it into direct competition with hosting partners such as The Planet and Rackspace.

The Planet has historically participated in the self-managed dedicated hosting market, providing data centers, networks and advanced servers on behalf of customers, and focused exclusively on the Microsoft technology stack, says Urvish Vashi, director of product management for The Planet. Later this year, he adds, The Planet will expand its offerings to the Linux platform.

Launching at Microsoft's WPC ensures The Planet will address the key partner and customer pain points as well as offer the opportunity to attract a greater number of resellers and MSPs, says Vashi.

For now, he's not too worried about potential competition.

"We think there's plenty of room in the marketplace for us and other players," says Vashi, adding that while competitors such Rackspace are "pretty uncontested in the SMB space," that The Planet differentiates itself with its incredible ability to scale and its high-touch Anticipation Advantage offering.

He said that The Planet's traditional self-managed, dedicated hosting model allowed customers to take most of the management responsibilities for the hardware, software, databases and basic applications The Planet provided, but that the model left two key market opportunities untapped.

"We've traditionally passed the keys to the kingdom onto our customers, because they wanted unfettered access to their infrastructure, and they wanted to manage it themselves," says Vashi. But that left customer opportunities on the table, both for existing customers who needed additional a la carte services and for a substantial untapped customer set that wanted an end-to-end, soup-to-nuts hosted infrastructure experience.

Vashi says there was such a discrepancy between the wants and needs of those two customer sets that The Planet decided to roll out two new brands. Being able to quickly and easily scale up or down to meet the needs of MSPs and customers is the major differentiator between The Planet and its competitors such as Rackspace, says Vashi.

"We found fallacies in the marketplace thinking that says, for example, large customers are the ones that want services, and small customers don't want them at all, or vice versa. Customers at any size have different needs at different phases of their lifecycles, and we have the ability to provide services at any point on that scale," says Vashi. 

"As more enterprises and small businesses move to hosted IT infrastructure, they must determine which solutions meet their unique requirements," says Dan Golding, vice president and research director at consulting firm Tier1. "Hosting firms that provide both a la carte services, as well as more advanced managed services, will maximize their own growth."

Planet Northstar is for customers that want a full-blown, managed outsourced hosted experience, says Vashi, and includes The Planet's new Anticipation Advantage proactive planning methodology. 

A dedicated team of certified, experienced and highly vetted IT pros carefully inspects and audits a customer's environment, then sets benchmarks, identifies trends and business goals for the customer, says Vashi. These teams are dedicated to specific clients, and are available 24/7 to manage and maintain customer infrastructure. Each quarter, interactive meetings are held to analyze and assess the customer’s business and technology goals, requirements and progress.

"This isn't an anonymous call center. Any time there's an issue with your environment, this team will engage you on those to solve them," Vashi says, "They know you by name, they were involved from the beginning in on-boarding your environment, and part of their job is to have that intimate relationship with you," he says. 

This high-touch support model is what sets The Planet apart, says Vashi.  Most providers rely on a reactive model that waits for problems to occur, and then sends a team to fix them. With the Anticipation Advantage methodology, constant monitoring and predictive analysis can ward off problems before they happen. 

"Just being reactive and waiting for something bad to happen wouldn't be accepted from internal IT staff, so why is it acceptable for an outside team that's getting paid to be an outside extension of that IT team?"

Planet Alpha Dedicated Servers is a more a la carte offering, says Vashi, that addresses the major pain points self-managed customers have. Existing customers can add server monitoring, server security and/or server administration services if they want or need to, he says.

"Planet Alpha's targeted to customers who are self-managed with IT experts on their own staff, but perhaps they have administrative tasks that they don't have the expertise or the time to manage," he says. 

These time, cost and skill considerations drive the technology needs of both VARs and their end customers, says Vashi, offering a huge potential pool of customers. 

"So many VARs, ISVs, MSPs want to focus on high-level services, application development, the high-value parts of their business. But the day-to-day administration is a drag on their resources,"says Vashi.  Handing over the tedious administration and low-level management tasks frees up VARs to emphasize higher-profit areas so their business can grow. 

Vashi says the new satellite service brands are available starting today. He says The Planet has already signed up about six customers to Planet Alpha and is getting rave reviews of the services. 

Sharon Linsenbach Sharon Linsenbach is a staff writer for eWEEK and eWEEK Channel Insider. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, Sharon was Assistant Managing Editor for CRN, a weekly magazine for PC and technology resellers. Before joining CRN, Sharon was an Acquisitions Editor for The Coriolis Group and later, Editorial Director with Paraglyph Press, both in Scottsdale, AZ. She holds a BA in English from Drew University and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her significant other and two neurotic cats. When she's not reading or writing about technology, Sharon enjoys yoga, knitting, traveling and live music. Sharon can be reached at Sharon.Linsenbach@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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