What Is Managed Cloud?
Editor's note: this blog post, originally published in 2014, was updated in May 2019.
Some people like to do everything themselves.
To manage their money, they open an online brokerage account and spend time researching investments and portfolio theory. To maintain their cars, they change their own fluids and filters and tires, and devote hours to reading manuals and ordering parts.
But investment vehicles and motor vehicles alike get increasingly complex. At some point, most busy, successful people — and busy, successful businesses — find it wise to focus on what they do best and let specialists do the rest. That’s a big part of the appeal of managed cloud.
What is a managed cloud service?
Managed cloud services allow businesses to tap into the power of cloud computing without the pain of becoming an expert in everything. It starts with the simple truth that every cloud has to be managed by someone. Like your retirement savings or your car, it doesn’t manage or maintain itself. So every business faces two main options:
DIY: It can hire and train experts to perform all the complex tasks required to manage cloud infrastructure and tools and application stacks. Or it can manage and mediate among multiple providers: say, one for multi-tenant cloud infrastructure and a second for single-tenant servers or VMware in a colocation facility, and a third for support.
Employ a trusted partner: This allows companies to focus on their core business — on building great applications and other new products, and landing new customers. They can stay fast and lean, rather than having to swell payroll with additional ops engineers and system administrators and other experts to manage IT that doesn’t differentiate their company.
What is a managed cloud services provider?
Managed cloud allows each customer to choose which IT functions it wishes to manage in-house, while leaving all the rest to its service provider. Managed cloud services can include infrastructure and application level support.
A managed cloud services provider like Rackspace offers its customers big economies of expertise. The provider’s engineers manage not only the customers’ computing, storage, networks, and operating systems, but also the complex tools and application stacks that run on top of that infrastructure. These include the latest databases and ecommerce platforms, as well as DevOps automation tools.
Managed cloud services include, at the infrastructure level:
- Architecture guidance
- System administration and operations (Ops)
- System monitoring, alerting, and reporting
- Performance testing and tuning
- Proactive communications and 24x7 support
- A single point of contact for support
- DNS management
- Security and compliance management
- Backup and disaster recovery
- Database administration
- Developer support and training
At the application and tools level, managed cloud services include:
- DevOps automation tools: Chef, Puppet, Salt, Ansible, LogStash, etc.
- Application deployment, scaling and lifecycle management
- Specialized database management: MySQL, MongoDB, Redis, Hadoop, etc.
- Managed virtualization on VMware vCloud.
- Management of Microsoft apps: SharePoint, Exchange email, Lync, etc.
- OpenStack Private Cloud deployment and management.
- Ecommerce and digital experience platform management: Sitecore, Oracle ATG, Hybris, Adobe Experience Manager, Drupal, WordPress, etc.
Unmanaged cloud vs multi-cloud providers vs outsourced IT service providers
One good way to frame managed cloud is to describe the major alternatives to it:
Unmanaged cloud: Here, the customer rents access to infrastructure — often from Amazon, Google, or Microsoft — and takes on all the burden of managing that infrastructure, as well as all the tools and apps that run on top of it. Customers who choose this option often get lower infrastructure prices than they would get from a managed cloud provider — but a higher total cost for hiring more engineers, supervising those engineers, and over-provisioning to avoid contention for resources on multi-tenant infrastructure.
Multiple cloud providers: Some customers rent cheap infrastructure from one or more providers and then hire one or more providers to support that infrastructure. This option can deliver savings on infrastructure unit costs, but those are usually offset by higher support costs. Multi-provider arrangements often prove difficult for the customer to manage, with fragmented systems, no clear accountability for results and no single “throat to choke.”
Outsourced IT service providers: The largest enterprises sometimes outsource all or most of their IT operations to a big systems-integrator like IBM, HP, or DXC. These arrangements allow the customer to focus on its core business, but are very expensive. Big outsourcers also tend to move slowly. It can take weeks to update a part of the customer’s configuration. More enterprises, and the developers who are pushing innovation within those companies, are finding that they can move more quickly and cost-efficiently by shifting new applications away from IT outsourcing and toward nimbler, less-expensive managed cloud providers.
Next gen vs traditional managed service providers
As enterprises seek to accelerate cloud adoption to realize the flexibility, agility and cost savings of the cloud, their needs evolve. Traditional managed service providers are unable to keep pace with the rapidly growing cloud ecosystem and shifting customer needs, leading to the evolution of next generation cloud service providers. They go well beyond offering traditional managed services, like migrations and day-to-day support, by delivering expert cloud guidance, customizable services, and multi-cloud technologies.
As the industry’s leading next gen cloud service provider, Rackspace serves as an unbiased, objective and experienced cloud partner for organizations around the globe, while working closely with customers to understand unique cloud requirements and challenges. As business needs change, Rackspace capabilities grow and evolve to help guide and support customers throughout the entire cloud lifecycle.
Rackspace’s next generation cloud services now provide flexible and highly customizable offers through Rackspace Service Blocks, Managed Infrastructure as Code (IaC) deployments, and expanded multi-cloud capabilities to help customers choose between cloud platforms and provide the ability to manage multiple public clouds with a single control panel.