Are you an MSP, VAR, or systems integrator? Do you want to start offering cloud services to upsell existing customers, while attracting new ones? Tier 3 is here to help. Last week, we announced a Reseller Edition of our cloud and we offer unique expertise in partnering with companies that want to quickly add cloud services to their product portfolio. In this blog post, we’ll walk through 8 quick steps to follow in order to get up and running as a cloud reseller.
1. Investigate the market and select a reseller.
We recently did a reseller-focused webcast with the folks at Talkin’ Cloud and a spot survey showed that over 75% of attendees were actively looking for a cloud partner. Clearly, a large number of telcos, SIs, and regional service providers are scouring the market and aggressively assessing whom to partner with.
If you are looking for a partner, what should you be asking each vendor? How can you ensure you are partnering with an innovative, differentiated provider that can bring you new revenue over the long-haul? Here’s a great starting point:
Does the provider have a global set of data centers?
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Your customers are more global than ever, and physical locations close to users and customers matter. Also, data sovereignty regulations impact where the physical “host” servers need to be.
Can the provider support the complex infrastructure and networking needs of your managed customers?
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: If not, there’s a good chance your customers won’t find your new cloud services attractive for their enterprise workloads.
How often to legacy systems need to be re-architected to fit the provider’s cloud?
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Agility and immediate access to resources are key drivers to move to the cloud in the first place. But this doesn’t need to be at odds with legacy applications - even complex environments can be migrated cleanly to the cloud if you choose the right provider.
What controls do you have in place to protect data sovereignty?
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Larger businesses need peace of mind to know their data is securely stored in isolation, in a physical location they can specify.
Which 3rd party products are commonly added by the provider’s customers, if any?
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Add-on services can be helpful for specific scenarios, but when it comes to the core scenarios of cloud management and automation, you should look for a provider that has significant capabilities built-in. Bringing in extra modules just adds cost and complexity for you and your customers.
How does the partner manage customer accounts and billing processes?
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: These back-office functions are vital when it comes to quickly monetizing the service. Sure, it’s not a sexy set of features, but it will make invoicing a breeze.
Can I rebrand the provider’s offering and make it look and feel like something from us? Does this feature cost extra?
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: This is key to customer loyalty and building brand equity.
How do I make money with your cloud?
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Powerful features and a highly capable global cloud platform don’t mean anything without a competitive partner program, and a spirit of partnership with your selected vendor.
How can I extend my business model of value-added services to the provider’s cloud?
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: This last question is key. How can you make sure that customers don’t just use a commodity cloud offering, eliminating your unique expertise? Among other things, Tier 3 encourages customers to differentiate on price and by offering exclusive intellectual property through Blueprints that encapsulate best practices on building highly-available, tuned application environments.
2. Evaluate Tier 3 - sign up for an account.
This one’s easy! Just visit the self-service sign up page and register for a new Tier 3 account. Within moments, you will receive an email with temporary credentials and a link to the easy-to-use Tier 3 Control Portal.
3. Change the site aesthetics to fit your brand.
Once you’ve logged in, the first thing to do is customize the Control Portal UI to match your brand. Tier 3 offers a variety of settings that allow you to rename the interface, modify logos and shortcut icons, and alter the color scheme of the site. These superficial – but important – changes go a long way to maintaining a brand identity with your customers.
4. Update the support-related hyperlinks.
Your will likely want your customers to take advantage of the support experience that you currently offer. Fortunately, you can easily override existing support links and point to your own online assets. For instance, you can change the default support email address, phone number, knowledge base URL, chat service URL, and much more.
5. Update outbound email templates.
Each email that comes from the cloud platform should reflect your brand and message. To achieve this, Tier 3 added configurable settings that let you change the email addresses, signature, subject lines, and message body of the most common system alerts.
6. Integrate with your existing billing, configuration management, and identity systems.
Unless you want to build a silo cloud service that doesn’t integrate with the rest of your back office systems, you’ll want to pay careful attention to this step! To integrate your billing systems with Tier 3, consider using our helpful Billing API that gives you access to usage estimates and monthly invoices. While you can easily access and download invoices from the Tier 3 Control Portal, the Billing API gives you a way to directly integrate our cloud with your financial systems.
Many organizations have investments in change management or support systems that track assets throughout their lifecycle. How can you ensure that servers in the Tier 3 cloud are properly “tagged” and linked to a configuration management database? One useful option is to add account-level “custom fields” that are populated whenever servers are added to the Tier 3 cloud.
You can access these custom field values through the Tier 3 API as well. If you chose to provision servers from within your own custom portal, you could call the Create Server API and tag the server with an identifier from your own system. This makes it simple to reconcile changes to servers in the Tier 3 cloud with the entries in your local systems.
Finally, if you offer a centralized identity directory to authenticate users of your existing platform, you may want to reuse that with the Tier 3 cloud. Tier 3 supports the SAML identity protocol for single sign-on between external identity directories and the Tier 3 Control Portal. Consider SAML and SSO if you want to make it simple for customers to reuse their existing credentials to log into the Tier 3 Control Portal.
7. Choose your preferred data centers.
You’re nearly ready to open the doors of your new cloud offering! In this step, assess which data centers you want customers to deploy servers into. The “Preferred Data Centers” settings let you choose which data centers show up for users who provision and manage servers.
8. Establish cloud costs and promotions.
While you likely established contractual settings early on, this final step involves configuring pricing details in the platform. We offer a very competitive pricing plan that ensures that you can generate a strong recurring revenue stream while giving customers a cost-effective cloud solution. Contract terms and promotion codes are managed by Tier 3 but we work closely with you to rapidly apply pricing parameters to your account.
The cloud offers a compelling and lucrative opportunity for existing managed service providers and systems integrators. Instead of building and maintaining your own cloud, consider partnering with Tier 3 and bringing cloud services online in a matter of days or weeks!
Just a couple weeks ago, we looked at how Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) helps developers rapidly build and deploy applications to the cloud. We also covered a new breed of cloud-based development environments (IDE) that developers can use to create and publish their web applications. Since then, the cloud-based IDE we featured – called Codenvy – has updated their product to support the Tier 3 Web Fabric. In this post, we’ll walk through how to quickly and easily deploy and manage Web Fabric applications from your web browser.
To start with, when users of Codenvy start a new web application project, they are asked which technology they want to use, and then which PaaS to deploy to. At this moment, the Tier 3 Web Fabric is available for Java Web Application (WAR), Java Spring, and Ruby on Rails projects. Note that Web Fabric works with more environments than these three, but these are the technologies supported via Codenvy.
Once the user chooses the technology and corresponding PaaS, they choose a simple project template (if one exists for that technology), and are then asked for the management API endpoint of the Web Fabric environment.
The project framework is then created, and the user is prompted for their Web Fabric credentials. After providing a valid username and password, the application is deployed and Internet-accessible. All of this in matter of seconds! To update the application, developers visit the PaaS menu option and choose Tier 3 Web Fabric.
From the subsequent window, developers can modify the name, URL, and memory allocation of the application. Additionally, the application can be started, stopped, deleted, and updated. It’s also possible to add Web Fabric application services – such as RabbitMQ for messaging or Microsoft SQL Server for relational database storage – to a project.
Codenvy can also be used as a simple management interface for any applications running in Web Fabric. This can come in handy if you’re on a shared machine without the typical Cloud Foundry management tools available!
This interface shows you each application running in your Web Fabric environment, and lets you start, stop, restart, or delete it.
We’re excited to be a supported part of the innovative Codenvy platform and think that this lowers the barrier to entry for our customers while making it simpler for developers to build amazing applications in any language of their choice. Want to try it out? Sign up for a free Codenvy account and then take Web Fabric for a spin!
Customer-driven innovation is baked into our company’s DNA. We’re always looking for ways to help customers create and manage enterprise-class environments on our platform.
One thing they’ve told us in recent months is that they want to be able to quickly find all of the diverse resources they’ve created in the Tier 3 cloud. We heard that request loud and clear and just released Global Search which is a unique capability that dramatically improves your user experience.
What is Global Search? It’s a platform-wide utility that lets you search for accounts, users, servers, Groups, networks, cloud orchestration Blueprints, Blueprint packages, and IP addresses – all from a single search box that is always displayed at the top of each page in our Control Portal.
The IT Professional Scenario
This powerful feature works with partial matches, which means that you can type a word like “Exchange” and get back any Tier 3 resource in your account hierarchy that is related to a Microsoft Exchange mail server. Below, see that this particular search returned some servers that are running Exchange Server, groups residing in different data centers, an account with the word “Exchange” in the description field, and a Blueprint.
Our design team studied the best search experiences in consumer and business products – Spotlight from Apple, as well as the search experience in GitHub for example – for ideas on how to refine results quickly for users.
The Support Scenario
Global Search works great for scenarios when you recall a partial name of a resource but don’t know which data center it resides in, or which sub-account it is associated with. Or, consider the case for the Tier 3 Network Operations Center (NOC) where a support request comes in, and all the caller has is the IP address of the troublesome server. Instead of navigating through collections of servers in the hopes of stumbling upon the right one, the support agent can now just type in all or part of the IP address into Global Search. What happens when you select one of the search results? The Global Search not only takes you to the selected resource, but also switches your account context and data center (if those values are different than your current context). All with a single click!
The Reseller Scenario
Another key use case revolves around resellers who deliver our cloud services to their customers. Those resellers have to manage numerous accounts and users and wanted a fast way to locate records. Tier 3 Global Search can find resources that span data centers and sub-accounts which is ideal for those who have resources spread out globally. Even if the only data you have is a last name or email address, you can still quickly find accounts or users that match that value.
Global Search will introduce massive efficiencies for daily users of the Tier 3 cloud. Whether you are support staff, , a system administrator, or a developer, this feature ensures that you can put your servers and users in any of our global data centers without worrying about how to find them later. Want to try out Global Search? Sign up for a free trial and see what an enterprise cloud SHOULD be.
In the coming months, Tier 3 will launch new, enterprise monitoring capabilities, powered by ScienceLogic and New Relic. We wrote a guest blog post for ScienceLogic, describing our approach to monitoring, check it out here.
Web applications are a dominant part of most enterprise IT portfolios and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) products offer a compelling way to easily deploy and manage these applications. However, PaaS have proven tricky for vendors to explain, and therefore difficult for customers to understand. In this post, we’ll discuss the reason you should consider using PaaS products, what Tier 3 has to offer, and how you can deploy a web application to a PaaS in a matter of minutes.
Benefits of PaaS
What exactly is PaaS? Basically, it’s a way of delivering an application platform as a service. Developers don’t interface directly with infrastructure (e.g. servers, networks, load balancers) but rather, focus on building and deployment applications through a set of exposed services in a managed fabric. PaaS simplifies the deployment and management of modern web applications while making those applications more resilient and functional. How can PaaS add value to your organization? Let’s drill into some specifics:
- Reduce server sprawl with a centralized host for web applications. How many web servers are sitting relatively idle in your data center because they are only running a handful of applications? Server sprawl can be a major issue as each IT project requisitions its own hardware for application development/staging/QA/production. What about all your websites for customers and marketing campaigns? It’s possible that you’re using many different servers (and even providers!) to host all of those individual websites. PaaS can offer a centralized fabric that can be sized and optimized for hundreds of internal or external web applications.
- Save money by adding resources only when you need them. Many PaaS products have a concept of automatic scale or user-driven resizing to account for spikes or dips in utilization. Before cloud computing, organizations typically sized their infrastructure for peaks and accepted that their environment would be underutilized the majority of the time. Now, it’s possible to deploy a web application with a 128MB memory allocation, and instantly double it when needed. Need to spread the workload across multiple machines? Simply issue a command to add the application to another node in the PaaS fabric. No calls to the operations team, no formal “deployment” exercises. PaaS makes it possible to size and scale applications on demand, which makes it easier for you to manage the overall environment.
- Focus on your application, and don’t sweat the infrastructure. One of the most important benefits of PaaS is that it abstracts the infrastructure away from the application, and the developer. Developers deploy to a fabric, not a server. There’s no need for the IT project team to provision web or database servers. Simply push applications to the existing PaaS environment. The infrastructure itself is managed closely by an operations team and automation is included at all levels to deliver automatic patching, scaling, monitoring and more.
- Multi-tenancy and high-availability baked in. PaaS products are designed to deliver high-availability to multiple applications (or “tenants”) and are therefore scaled out to provide significant compute capacity. As such, you’ll find many PaaS products with built-in load balancing services, failover when servers fail, concurrency management, and more. All of these features boost reliability and performance for each application hosted in the PaaS. Even applications not specifically designed for PaaS can conceivably be deployed to a PaaS with little to no code refactoring.
- Avoid unnecessary duplication by using consolidated application services. When most people think of PaaS they think of hosting web applications, but some of the best capabilities are those offered by complimentary services. Most PaaS products offer add-on services like databases, storage, identity management, messaging, caching and more. You’ll also find some PaaS products that offer business services such as service catalogs, and API management and monitoring. Developers can use these services when building their web applications and not have to provision or locate hardware to host those services at runtime. These services simply exist inside the PaaS and are available to all applications deployed there.
- Deliver “IT as a Service” through measured usage for easy chargebacks. A core tenet of cloud computing is “pay as you go” and measured usage. A true PaaS is built upon a “cloudy” foundation that tracks utilization and delivers an all-up cost to the user at the end of the month (or whenever the user checks their charges). Because of this cost transparency, it’s easy for organizations to deliver “IT as a service” by offering a PaaS for internal/external websites and passing along the usage-based invoices to each department.
All of this helps developers produce faster deployments while giving system administrators a more streamlined operations responsibility.
Why Tier 3 Web Fabric?
Tier 3 has its own PaaS product – called Web Fabric – that is based on Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry project. We’ve added the open-source Iron Foundry extensions so that we can offer some of the best language and framework support in the industry. Unlike the shared PaaS services offered by others, Web Fabric is provisioned uniquely for each customer. This gives you the isolation you need, while still offering a robust platform for all the custom applications used by your organization. The default Web Fabric environment consists of five total servers and can support dozens of web applications.
Why might you choose to use the Tier 3 Web Fabric to host your modern web applications? We like to point out at least five reasons:
- Support for the programming languages you already use. Most IT shops are heterogeneous and use technologies from multiple vendors. You may have written a number of enterprise-class web applications in .NET or Java, but also have departments that make use of Ruby or PHP. If you’re doing more mobile development, you might have started looking at Node.js for high performing web applications. Tier 3’s Web Fabric supports all those programming languages and more. Instead of using multiple PaaS products or infrastructure clouds to host your diverse application portfolio, use a single fabric for all of them!
- Application services to cover your scenarios. Need a relational database? We offer MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Microsoft SQL Server. Looking for a NoSQL repository? Web Fabric has Redis and MongoDB. RabbitMQ is also available when you want to add a durable message queue to your solution. In addition, each Web Fabric comes with New Relic monitoring for web applications. This excellent application performance management tool gives you deep insight that helps identify bottlenecks and monitor application health.
- Cloud Foundry ecosystem. There’s no doubting the impact of Cloud Foundry on the PaaS industry. This open source project was launched in 2010 and has been adopted by multiple PaaS vendors. Not only does this make it straightforward to move applications between Cloud Foundry-compliant clouds, but also means that there are multiple parties creating tools that work for any Cloud Foundry environment. From the Windows-based Cloud Foundry Explorer, to the OSX-friendly Project Thor, to web-based development environments, there’s a growing ecosystem of vendors and tools to help you be successful with Cloud Foundry.
- Enterprise-class infrastructure. Tier 3’s network of highly resilient, globally distributed infrastructure is optimized for performance throughout the stack. And since Web Fabric runs on the Tier 3 enterprise cloud, your applications will be powered by high performing storage, multiple VPN options, security services, and much more.
- IaaS and PaaS, better together. Not all workloads fit into a PaaS platform, and not all applications require dedicated infrastructure. By offering our customers enterprise-class infrastructure in addition to Web Fabric, we’ve provided two useful hosting mechanisms in the same cloud. Keep your PaaS applications geographically close to your IaaS applications and data, and share the same management tools, security profile, and networking configuration.
Deploying to Web Fabric from a Cloud-based Development Environment
Developers can push their application to Web Fabric in a number of ways. While most developers are familiar with command line interfaces and GUI tools that run on their desktop, a new crop of cloud-based integrated development environments (IDEs) can make PaaS deployments even simpler. Cloud IDEs offer excellent collaboration capabilities, easy accessibility, and “no-touch” setup.
One such cloud IDE is Codenvy. This tool works natively with Cloud Foundry, making it easy to build Java/Ruby/Python/PHP applications and then push them to Web Fabric. After signing up for a free account, the developer is presented with the option to link to GitHub or any Git repository.
Codenvy uses a handy “new project” wizard experience to help the developer choose which programming language to use, and then which (supported) PaaS to push to. In the short animation below, observe how I created a new Java Spring project, chose Cloud Foundry (Web Fabric) as a destination, finish the wizard and publish the application to Web Fabric.
The Codenvy IDE includes many developer productivity features including type-ahead coding (i.e. “intellisense”), code generation, formatting tools, and much more. Changing the application code and re-publishing the application to Web Fabric is simple. Notice how easy it is to resize my application (e.g. memory, instance count) at any time!
Besides simply deploying applications, Codenvy supports simple management of existing applications. From the PaaS –> Cloud Foundry –> Applications menu, I can see all the applications that I’ve deployed to Web Fabric and stop/start/restart/delete any of them.
Developers using cloud-based IDEs don’t get all the features of desktop IDEs (like access to local resources, plug-ins), but they are an increasingly viable choice for developers who are trying new technologies or need access to their IDE from any computer.
With our enterprise-class infrastructure and platform cloud, Tier 3 is uniquely positioned to address your cloud needs. Web Fabric is an ideal host for your modern web applications and its Cloud Foundry heritage makes it compatible with a wide array of tools including cloud-based IDEs like Codenvy.
Interested in taking a look at Web Fabric? Contact us for a demonstration and free trial!