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As part of the process of providing more value to customers, managed service providers are evolving from being the provider of a single IT service to being integrators of multiple services delivered primarily via the cloud.

As a result of this shift to service integration and management, MSPs are turning their traditional network operations centers into enterprise command centers.

Case in point is CDW, which is spending $25 million to build out an enterprise command center in Vernon Hills, Ill. George Ganas, senior manager of operations for the managed services team at CDW, said the goal behind this effort is to extend the range of enterprise-class services CDW provides while providing a central point from which five distributed data center facilities can be centrally managed.

“We’re building what Gartner and other analysts now refer to as an enterprise command center,” said Ganas. “The problem a lot of customers have is that, when they put everything in the cloud, they start scratching their heads about how to manage it.”

On an even grander scale, MSPs, such as HCL Technologies, are investing in machine-learning technologies to automate as much of the delivery of their services as possible. To that end, HCL announced today that it has inked an agreement with Moogsoft under which it will embed big data analytics capabilities within the HCL AUTOPS management platform.

As IT environments get more complex, MSPs need not only to rely more on automation, but they also need to move beyond thinking in terms of simply providing a managed IT service, said Kalyan Kumar, senior vice president and chief technologist for IT operations at HCL Technologies. “You really need to think in terms of integrating multiple services,” he said. “That’s why we’ve built an enterprise command center.”

Carolyn April, an industry analyst with CompTIA, an IT industry association, noted that it’s the complexity of today’s IT environments that are actually enabling MSPs to get closer to their customers. In fact, a recent survey of 350 IT executives conducted by CompTIA finds that the need for greater IT agility rather than cost saving is becoming one of the primary reasons organizations are increasingly deciding to rely on MSPs for IT services.

“If we did this survey a couple of years ago, the primary reason would have been cost,” April said. “Now, we’re seeing more emphasis being placed on flexibility.”

Obviously, it costs a lot more to be a provider of an enterprise command center than it does to be an MSP, so it remains to be seen whether this latest incarnation of the MSP model will be any more profitable. However, one thing is certain: The stakes for remaining in the MSP game are about to become a whole lot higher.

Michael Vizard has been covering IT issues in the enterprise for 25 years as an editor and columnist for publications such as InfoWorld, eWEEK, Baseline, CRN, ComputerWorld and Digital Review.