Enabling MSPs to succeed in the cloud, control their own destiny and simplify hybrid IT for their clients: OnApp is the complete white label cloud platform, designed for MSPs
Cloud Platform Innovation of the Year
Entry Description
OnApp is a cloud software company that works with service providers. We provide an innovative, simple, flexible and profitable way for MSPs to succeed with their own hybrid cloud services: a cloud platform that makes it easy to launch new services adjacent to traditional network and communications products, on which an MSP can build a wide range of vertical and application-specific offerings where they retain commercial control, rather than just low-margin reselling.

Market context
Our MSP customers serve a wide range of customers, but all have at least one thing in common: they are looking for a better way to build, manage and provision cloud - a way that makes sense for their customers and for their business. We bridge that gap.

MSPs have a particularly tricky job in this context, for a number of reasons. First there is the hyperscale problem. Most MSPs that “do cloud” do it by reselling AWS, Azure or GCE. However, most MSPs aren’t developers, and many find it difficult to deal with the increasingly complex product portfolios of hyperscalers when it comes to delivering Infrastructure-as-a-Service. Reselling Office365 is easy: building Lambda functions with S3, Kenesis and IAM integration is not. MSPs exist to handle technical complexity on behalf of their clients, but with cloud many now struggle with a technical debt of their own.

It’s also market where analysts put migration to public cloud front and center, and consider public cloud to be the domain of a handful of those large providers – but of course, that is not really the case. Many MSPs have their own infrastructure, many of their customers do too, and not all of them are ready for or even suited to a cloud-native or public-cloud only approach. They live in a hybrid world. Not just hybrid cloud infrastructure, but also hybrid, multi-modal IT. The palette of MSP services extends out of necessity from traditional non-virtualized hardware and end-of-support applications and Operating Systems at one end, through to cloud, containers and serverless computing at the other.

If that sounds complex, it’s because it is – and on top of that technical complexity is an additional level of commercial uncertainty for MSPs who find themselves co-opted into any kind of hyperscale-only approach.

Micro-services are great from a developer’s perspective, but they are also a way for these large cloud providers to obfuscate the total cost of the service you’re trying to build for your clients. Unpredictability is anathema to MSPs and clients alike, but while costs are problematic, lock-in is even more so. MSP customers need flexibility: moving workloads to public or private cloud might make sense today, but it is not and should be permanent. The serverless model makes it difficult to extricate clients and workloads from hyperscale platforms.

At the same time, MSPs that have been using hyperscalers as their go-to-market partners are seeing those partners start to sell direct to their clients with competing voice, collaboration and mobility solutions – while, in the case of AWS, also tightening their MSP partner program requirements.

So, how does OnApp help?

We don’t sell cloud to enterprises: we partner with MSPs and enable them to sell. Our core product (OnApp Cloud) simplifies entry to the cloud for MSPs, enabling them to create and operate their own Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud environments.

For MSPs with their own datacenters, we can, in about 48 hours, create a complete IaaS cloud environment that an MSP can take to market as a private cloud, virtual private cloud or public cloud service. Typically our MSP clients use us to offer a mix of all of those things.

For MSPs who are either trying to divest infrastructure, or who need rapid access to infrastructure in new locations, in order to fulfill an RFP, we also offer a fully managed cloud platform: a ready-to-sell cloud environment, running on OnApp on bare metal at a range of infrastructure providers, including AWS. We also enable MSPs to take their own CDN services to market.

OnApp USPs for MSPs

OnApp is unique because it’s a cloud platform designed for service providers. OnApp was born in a service provider business: its initial in-house incarnation was rewritten and launched as a white label software platform that any service provider could use to take cloud services to market. It provides a complete cloud deployment, automation, orchestration, management, provisioning and metering environment, runs on almost any commodity datacenter hardware, and has native multi-tenancy, multi-cloud, multi-hypervisor and multi-location support.

Because OnApp was designed for MSPs we do quite a few things differently, but there are perhaps three main USPs to focus on.

The first is simplicity. Rather than requiring MSPs to integrate a framework of components (like OpenStack) - or a set of micro-services (like AWS) OnApp enables cloud with a ready-to-run solution that requires minimal integration effort and engineering support. There is one UI, and one API, and your cloud can be production-ready in 48 hours.

Cloud is all about abstraction, but OnApp abstracts the customer workload from the infrastructure type and location, altogether: virtual machines, containers, bare metal, DR and CDN live in the same environment. Public, private and hybrid cloud live in the same environment. KVM, Xen, VMware and EC2 – again, in the same environment. Clouds in your datacenters and third party datacenters can also be controlled through the same pane of glass. OnApp reflects the way real-world customer environments actually work, using multiple types of IT infrastructure and providers: this makes it easy for MSPs trying to do digital transformation with their customers, to make the process transitionary, and therefore much less likely to fail.

OnApp is also unique in enabling workload portability across those different types of infrastructure. OnApp clouds can be deployed in your datacenter, on customer premises, on infrastructure from our global Federation of wholesale clouds, or on hyperscale bare metal, including AWS. You can then take any workload and move it between providers and locations in a couple of clicks, enabling MSPs to cater for customers who worry about lock-in, or data sovereignty, or simply customers whose price/performance/compliance needs might change in the future.

OnApp is also focused on profitability. We enable MSPs to automate and monetize their cloud in whatever way best fits their customers and their business. OnApp probably has the most flexible billing and access control engine on the market. You have total control over how you package your services, how you charge for cloud resources, how much you give for free, what kind of billing cycle your customers want, and how you get that data into your BSS and OSS in the back office. That’s especially important for MSPs with legacy systems that are great at dealing with proprietary call and event data. With OnApp, cloud will play nicely with the back-office systems they’re using already.

What’s new in OnApp for MSPs?

The latest version of OnApp Cloud for MSPs (v6.0) launched in October 2018. Highlights included:

• Hybrid cloud billing
OnApp has always allowed MSPs to charge for all of their infrastructure, but with the growing need for hybrid services it was time to introduce a new billing engine to the platorm: now OnApp combines billing (rate cards) and role-based access control in a single entity we call a “bucket”. A bucket controls which resources an end user has access to, and all of the permissions, limits and pricing that go with it. A bucket can be assigned to any arbitrary mix of users, user groups of companies. It’s an easy way for MSPs to create easy-to-repeat services.

• Software-Defined Networking
OnApp already virtualised compute infrastructure, and has its own Software-Defined Storage system. Adding SDN helps MSPs by allowing easier and stickier integration with customers’ managed WANs – and encourages cross-selling of adjacent cloud products, for MSPs with traditional networking portfolios.

• Back-up plug-ins
OnApp has a range of native back-up options, but for MSPs who already offer backup solutions, we wanted to make it easier to integrate and cross-sell back-up with cloud (or vice-versa). OnApp now supports Veeam, Acronis and R1 and we’re encouraging other vendors to work with us to expand the range of third-party tools we support: backup is just the beginning.

• vCenter support
OnApp has has support for VMware vCloud Director since 2015. In v6 we added support for vCenter too. VMware cloud providers use OnApp to replace the multiplicity of native VMware interfaces with the single OnApp portal, and to take advantage of OnApp’s more flexible billing and access control systems. Now companies can use OnApp to turn existing vCenter environments into a multi-tenant, self-service public cloud.

Market impact

IDC Analyst Brandon Butler described OnApp as “the most popular cloud platform you’ve probably never heard of”. Because it’s a white-label product many end users have no idea their services are running on our software. We’ve built more than 5,000 service provider clouds in 93 countries: an estimated 1 in 3 of the world’s public clouds run on OnApp.

Supporting information
• Website: https://onapp.com/
• Datasheet: https://onapp.com/?ddownload=27022
• Unbelievable Machine case study: https://onapp.com/wp-content/uploads/delightful-downloads/2018/03/onapp-UBMC-casestudy-web.pdf
• Architechs case study: https://onapp.com/wp-content/uploads/delightful-downloads/2018/02/cs020-architechs-casestudy-webx.pdf