This post is the first in a series dedicated to the concept of the “Technology Stack.” I’m excited that Net Friends is the first managed service provider (MSP) in the Research Triangle region to deploy a complete Technology Stack for our NetVisor and NetCore Elements customers. In this post, I’ll talk about what a Technology Stack is, and what it means to implement one at an MSP.
The idea of a software stack or solution stack is a concept that’s been used in software and web development for about 20 years. Now it is starting to get traction among advanced IT service providers and enterprise-level IT divisions, in the form of a Technology Stack. The common element here is of course the “stack.” So what does that mean?
A stack is a carefully selected group of products that, when deployed and managed together, provide all the functions to meet a business need. System administrators can deploy a solution stack of hardware and software products as the platform for something the business requires, such as a website or a virtual machine. Administrators like to use solution stacks because they can be confident that the products will be reliable and compatible with each other, keeping management hassles to a minimum.
A Technology Stack expands the “stack” model to the entire IT needs of the organization. Here’s how it works:
1. First, the service provider or IT division maps out all the IT functions a customer will require. These might include:
- Desktops and laptops
- Network and wireless devices
- Productivity applications like Microsoft Office
- Email and collaboration software
- Security and automated alerts
- Ease of use and management
- Favorable procurement/licensing terms
- Comprehensive support and warranty agreements
2. Through a rigorous, multi-step R&D process, the provider winnows the field of vendor candidates to a small selection that score highest on the defined criteria.
3. Working with each vendor, the provider defines:
- Which products from the vendor’s catalog offer the best value
- Employee training and certification needed to support and deploy these products
- Partner programs and incentives to drive down the cost of these products
At the end of all this, the provider now has a small, manageable list of products and services that, when combined, will completely fulfill the IT needs of 95% of its customers. A Technology Stack is born!
But wait, we’re not finished. After an MSP starts developing a Technology Stack, it can take over a year to effectively deliver on the promise that the Stack works as intended and delivers tangible business outcomes that benefit the customer. In my next post, I’ll discuss the difficult commitments an MSP must be willing to make for its new Technology Stack to produce returns on the investment, and why so many organizations lack the operational maturity to successfully follow through.