A UK-based hybrid IT services provider last week announced its entry into the U.S. market, touting a subscription model that it says makes a hybrid cloud environment more easily supportable and manageable for SMBs.
The provider, Zynstra, is positioning its service as a “lifeline” in advance of the Windows Server 2003 end of support, scheduled for this July. In a recent interview, Nick East, Zynstra’s CEO, said 35 percent of SMBs are running at least one instance of Windows Server 2003, so the demand for an alternative that incorporates a hybrid cloud approach is expected to be substantial.
Zynstra’s subscription model is built around HP ProLiant servers that are installed at the customer’s location, and function as appliances that are managed by third-party Managed Services Providers, or MSPs. I found all of this especially interesting, because it struck me that the model sounds strikingly similar to the Intel Hybrid Cloud Server and AppUp Small Business Service, which Intel killed off in May, 2013. According to TheVARguy.com, Intel sent a letter to its resellers at the time, with this explanation:
We thank you for your support of the Intel AppUp Small Business Service and your participation in the Intel Hybrid Cloud program to date. We regret to inform you, however, that after reviewing our business results, Intel has made the decision to discontinue the service, effective immediately. The decision to discontinue the service was not made lightly, and has been based primarily on slower than expected growth and market adoption. Given this decision to discontinue the Intel AppUp Small Business Service, we respectfully request your support to conduct the service shutdown.
I pointed all of that out to East, who responded that a great deal has changed over the past three years.
“The market has moved firmly in the direction of hybrid IT and IT-as-a-service, and channels have begun to embrace annuity services,” East said. “Many analysts, suppliers and enterprise customers recognize hybrid IT as the optimum solution to meet their needs for flexibility and control, now and in the future.”
If that’s true, it would follow that other vendors are going to jump on this bandwagon, so I asked East what his strategy will be to differentiate Zynstra’s offering. He said Zynstra is investing heavily in technologies to deliver hybrid IT to smaller sites.
“These include extensive cloud management tools and our keep-current technology, which can facilitate all customers staying up-to-date on the latest versions of their virtualization environment, their applications, and their operating systems,” East said. “In some ways, you could consider what we do for small-site servers to be similar to what Meraki did for on-premise Wi-Fi. It takes a great deal of software intellectual property to deliver such a service at scale.”
Zynstra is providing the service exclusively through channel partners, so in light of the deal with HP on the appliances, I asked East if he’s using HP’s channel partner network exclusively.
“We work closely with HP channel partners, but have a wide-ranging channel strategy which includes two-tier distribution, white-label resellers, MSPs, and communication service providers,” East said. “CloudMSP is our first distributor in North America, and they support a number of MSPs, including TCT Computer Solutions.”
As for the cost, East said Zynstra’s aim is to make the purchasing, delivery, and use of small-site IT as simple and as cost-effective as possible.
“We package together hardware, management, and software licensing at a wholesale price to our channel partners, who then have the flexibility to package our solution with their services to meet their particular customer needs,” East said. “As such, there is no ‘standard price,’ but the solution can start at less than $200 per month, depending on the requirement and package.”
Zynstra’s offering got a thumbs-up from Carl Lehmann, research manager at The 451 Group.
“Zynstra does the heavy lifting, making the hybrid cloud work,” Lehmann said. “All in all, it's a compelling argument for the SMB end user, and the channel partners that serve them.”
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.