Remote management of applications frees your people from mundane tasks

Do you have a portfolio of commodity applications like email, collaboration, mobile device management and directory and identity management that require multiple staff members to administer? Could their time and expertise be put to better use? Here's a business model that lets you outsource the remote monitoring and management of common in-house applications, freeing up your people for more strategic IT work.

It seems like everything we read today is about moving your business applications to the cloud to gain flexibility and reduce costs. While this may be a good long-term strategy, the reality is that most organizations still house the majority of their applications in a traditional fashion. But there's still opportunity to shave costs and gain flexibility in your workforce even with those workhorse applications staying right where they are today.

There’s a business model that allows companies to outsource the management and operations of their business applications while keeping the hardware and software in-house or hosting it in a private cloud at a third party data center. In essence, the only thing that moves "to the cloud" is the resource that monitors and manages commodity business applications like email, document management, collaboration and unified communications. By outsourcing the routine operational tasks, you can free up your IT staff to perform more strategic work while reducing operational costs.

ANALYSIS: Cloud computing disrupts the vendor landscape

Azaleos is a managed services provider that specializes in the remote monitoring and management of commodity applications like Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Active Directory and Lync Server. The company has developed its own technology called AzaleosX that allows it to gather and package operational information from customers' servers and bring it back to the company's Network Operations Centers (NOCs) for analysis and action.

The AzaleosX platform has two main components: ViewX for monitoring, alerting, reporting and visualization, and SecureX for management and remediation. A lightweight agent for ViewX is placed on the servers you want Azaleos to monitor and manage.

ViewX collects specific server data points, compresses them, and sends them to the Azaleos back-end system where Azaleos applies best practice rules. Anomalies in the data trigger alerts to the NOC staff. Then expert engineers proactively remediate issues using the SecureX management module, which provides secure remote access to your servers to resolve issues quickly and securely. The remote access enables logged, auditable, repeatable and scripted remote command execution that doesn't require any changes in your security practices. For example, the Azaleos engineers can apply patches and system updates, make configuration changes and perform other routine maintenance tasks.

The data that ViewX collects and sends to the Azaleos NOC is strictly server and application performance and operations data. Azaleos doesn't collect and has no visibility into customer email content or business-related data from the applications it monitors. Also, because Azaleos collects this same type of operational data from numerous customers, the aggregated anonymous data helps the engineers identify anomalies and trends so they can be proactive in remediating potential issues even before they pose a problem.

Azaleos engineers are certified on the applications and systems they support, and the company has certified design architects on staff to help customers architect their IT platforms if needed. One of the benefits of this outsourcing model is that you can gain access to experts with the right set of skills for the tasks they need to perform.

While it may be easy to find people in the job market who are skilled in managing Microsoft Exchange, it can be much more difficult to find experts in Microsoft SharePoint for collaboration or Microsoft Lync solutions for unified communications. By outsourcing to Azaleos, you get a slice of time from these experts who might be too cost-prohibitive for you to have on staff -- if you can find a good available candidate at all.

BACKGROUND: Azaleos launches managed SharePoint service

Even better, you can free up your own staff members from the drudgery of daily operations work so they can concentrate on more strategic projects that can deliver higher value for your organization. This would put your organization in line with a growing trend identified by Foote Partners and other research organizations: to develop a leaner, more strategic IT department while outsourcing deeply technical tasks to service providers who leverage their expertise across a broad spectrum of customers.

There are many types of applications that are ripe for this kind of remote management. Applications that are part of a mature ecosystem and that have stable, repetitive operational tasks are good candidates. So are applications that are for back office or internal use, with little to no exposure to end customers, as well as applications that have not been customized to a specific business. Good candidate applications include:

• Desktop virtualization 

• Directory and identity management 

• Sales force automation 

• Mobile device management 

• Tier 1 help desk/service desk 

• Email 

• IM and conferencing 

• Voice integrated with PBX 

• Document management and collaboration 

• Print services

If you haven't completely defined your cloud strategy yet but are looking for opportunities to build flexibility into your application management processes, consider a remote arrangement. Let someone else take care of the daily operational tasks while you focus on higher value projects.

Linda Musthaler is a principal analyst with Essential Solutions Corporation. You can write to her at LMusthaler@essential-iws.com.

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About Essential Solutions Corp:

Essential Solutions researches the practical value of information technology, and how it can make individual workers and entire organizations more productive. Essential Solutions offers consulting services to computer industry and corporate clients to help define and fulfill the potential of IT.

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