Selling advanced remote network management: Configuration and discovery

As networks become complex with virtualization and cloud, partners find opportunities to sell remote network management solutions for configuration and discovery.

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As IT adopts virtualization and cloud, IT managers are pressed to rethink network management given new complexity in the network. One possibility is investing in advanced remote network management services that reach inside the virtual environment.

Many vendors offer partners and managed service providers (MSPs) the ability to sell advanced remote network management like Network Change and Configuration Management (NCCM) and discovery/reporting for cloud networking and virtualized environments.

SolarWinds focuses on network configuration in remote network management

SolarWinds' Network Configuration Manager (NCM) automates network configuration and compliance management. The NCM software for MSPs provides scalable and extensible architecture and deployment, allowing partners to offer unlimited customer monitoring from a single NOC using SolarWinds Enterprise Operations Console (EOC). The dashboard provides visibility into customizable data for both the MSP and the customer.

Automated NCCM tools like those from SolarWinds replace manual processes like automatic configuration backup, real-time configuration, change alerting, automatic device import, and configuration comparisons and rollback. These tools also help companies improve staff efficiency, decrease downtime, reduce risk and enable the enforcement of compliance policies.

EasyStreet Online Services, an Oregon-based MSP offering collocation and cloud services, uses SolarWinds' NCM solutions for customers as well as its own facilities. The MSP operates two data centers, together with over 11,000 square feet of collocation space in Beaverton.

As an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider, EasyStreet gives businesses a choice of services with the flexibility to meet their own infrastructure needs.

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Integrated Services is one of the fastest growing segments of EasyStreet's business, according to Byron Anderson, hosting specialist and SolarWinds certified professional at EasyStreet.

The service starts with testing for cloud-ready assessments and discovery reporting before migrating customers to the cloud. "It is also what allows us to pull multiple different types of environments together to create hybrid environments," said Anderson.

Then customers choose to manage the network themselves or turn that over to EasyStreet for remote network monitoring, providing a portal for visibility into the network data. EasyStreet uses a number of network management software products from SolarWinds, including log management, network configuration management, network server and application monitoring, IP address management, and cloud and virtualization management.

Customers turn to EasyStreet because they prefer to focus their resources and energy toward their own business, and leave the technical components to the MSP. "Maintaining the technologies and network staff to maintain the technologies is a huge investment for businesses," he said.

Transition services, like those offered by EasyStreet, are shaping up to be a big driver for MSPs, according to Jim Frey, managing research director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). As more companies virtualize, it forces them to introduce a new wave of technology.

"MSPs can help reduce the risk of new technology introductions as well as assume responsibility for keeping up with the complexity and growth," Frey said.

HP's remote network management solutions: Network discovery and reporting

Business service management company, Whitlock Infrastructure Solutions in Durham, North Carolina, has seen its consulting business become busier than ever with enterprise customers struggling to manage their virtualized and cloud environments.

To differentiate in the market, Whitlock has become a HP Configuration Management System (CMS) 10 specialist. HP's CMS 10 offers visibility into the relationship between software and physical components or virtual and underlying cloud IT infrastructures. It includes the HP Universal Discovery Software with automated discovery to support the deployment and management of physical, virtual and cloud projects. Additionally, a federated configuration management database (UCMDB) integrates with trusted sources, allowing managers to make effective decisions and control changes.

"We deploy and customize CMS 10 for our customers and turn it over to them or we can manage it remotely," said Jeff Jamieson, vice president of sales and marketing at Whitlock.

"Customers turn to us for expertise, to reduce costs, hire extra hands and because with CMS 10, we can offer a rich dashboard, accurate reporting and real-time automation."

Remote network management training helps partners sell

Being a player in the management of virtualized and cloud environments requires significant investment in tools and training. Vendor training is key as is ongoing training in labs facilities running the vendor's software.

SolarWinds provides online training, such as webcasts, for VARs and MSPs like EasyStreet. The training is free and covers everything from networking basics to product usage through advanced features. The company also offers a SolarWinds certification for proficiency in SolarWinds network management.

HP also offers training for partners to help sell both virtual instructor-led training and more formal on-site classes on its products. Virtual training is typically 1 to 1.5 hours of recorded instruction, while the face-to-face training varies from one to three days. Product demonstrations are also included in the face-to-face training.

Sales and technical product training for HP CMS 10 is also delivered on-demand. The sales training helps the clients frame the value proposition and potential target buyers. The technical product training provides in-depth insight into new product features and includes use cases.

For Whitlock, the company has an internal training lab facility for all the HP products it offers and supports. New hires are also cross-trained in the field by shadowing their more experienced peers.

This was first published in October 2012

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