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Exclusive: Nerdio Lowers Azure Barriers to Entry for MSPs

A year after launching a platform based on the idea that Microsoft Azure was both a powerful and challenging platform for IT as a Service (ITaaS), Chicago-based Nerdio is taking its vision for managed service providers (MSPs) and small and medium business (SMB) to another level.

Nerdio for Azure (NFA) formally launched last year as a toolset to help MSPs get their SMB customers up and running on an ITaaS platform based on Azure. NFA included tools for provisioning, managing and optimizing entire environments into the Microsoft public cloud. An NFA-enabled environment could include desktops, as either virtual desktop infrastructure or via Remote Desktop Services (RDS); server instances with automated backup; and Office 365.

With price estimation tools included that allowed what-if forecasting, MSPs using the platform were able to predict what such environments would cost, enabling them to price in their own margins and reduce the possibility of price shocks when the Azure bill came each month from Microsoft. Further, the platform contained automation and orchestration tools for tasks like upsizing line-of-business server virtual machines during work hours and downsizing them at night or on weekends to control Azure costs.

In the interim, the platform has attracted dozens of partners and Nerdio inked a key strategic partnership earlier this year with SherWeb, one of Microsoft's Indirect Providers in the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. Nerdio does not handle licensing of Azure or Office 365, so partners need to work with Microsoft directly or with a provider like SherWeb to sell the subscriptions to customers.

Yet a key obstacle to MSP adoption is the full-stack approach of NFA. Not all -- and in fact probably relatively few -- MSPs and SMBs are ready to throw all of their infrastructure up into the Azure cloud just yet, Nerdio CEO Vadim Vladimirskiy said in an interview on Tuesday.

"We believe, and I think most of our partners believe, that they will have their IT in the cloud at a certain point in the future. All at once? Probably not. What we're working on now is to simplify that process," Vladimirskiy said.

While Nerdio is a forward-thinking company that has been providing private cloud-based, full IT stack solutions to its own customers for years, the company recognizes that most partners and their customers are interested in smaller steps initially.

Looking over the technology platform Nerdio has built, executives there believe their platform has value for more limited Azure implementations run by MSPs on behalf of both SMBs and even enterprises. While the scope of the stack is smaller, the market opportunity could be many times larger.

"We believe, and I think most of our partners believe, that they will have their IT in the cloud at a certain point in the future. All at once? Probably not. What we're working on now is to simplify that process."

Vadim Vladimirskiy, Nerdio CEO

"Because not all organizations are necessarily ready to go full IT stack in Azure, we wanted to make it as easy as possible for more MSPs to address a wider range of customer use cases, and therefore capture more business through Azure," Vladimirskiy said.

What Nerdio launched this week are four new "use cases" for NFA. Running from the least comprehensive to the most, the offerings are Servers, Azure Hosted RDS, Desktop as a Service (DaaS) and ITaaS. The last one, ITaaS, is basically the original, full-stack NFA offering.

The use cases are defined as high-level guides for MSPs, complete with a sample deployment, simple implementation steps within NFA and customer pricing recommendations.

NFA's Servers use case could be a logical place to start for MSPs looking to move some workloads into Azure without building up a lot of Azure expertise. The use case handles extending the existing network and Active Directory into Azure, migrating line-of-business applications and database servers, managing server infrastructure in Azure and managing backups in Azure.

"We make the creation of servers a trivial thing," Vladimirskiy said. One other point of interest around that server management use case is a pricing loophole. Because NFA is priced per-desktop, per-month, MSPs that try out the Servers use case won't see a bill from Nerdio.

While much of the appeal for NFA is within the SMB market, the Azure Hosted RDS use case comes in response to enterprise demand. Enterprise environments are generally too complicated to roll completely into a single ITaaS solution, but many organizations are looking for help with RDS. "They didn't want to be constantly updating their RDS environment. Also, the datacenter is typically not ideally situated for the bulk of their users. Azure is a natural deployment because you can place the right amount of resources next to the right user groups," Vladimirskiy said.

The DaaS use case is for organizations that are looking for Windows desktop access from any connected device but that don't necessarily want the rest of the stack.

Finally, the ITaaS use case has everything that NFA can manage, including servers, desktops and backup from Azure, and security, e-mail, collaboration and file storage from Office 365.

According to Nerdio, the use cases resulted from MSP feedback, and the company will continue to look at additional use cases. Some current candidates include file sharing-only or messaging-only scenarios.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 29, 2018 at 2:48 PM