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!
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.
If you’ve ever looked at cloud server prices, or deployed a cloud server instance, you’ve likely noticed that most providers have a selection of “templates” to choose from. Users browse and select from a library of pre-baked server templates that contain combinations of compute, storage, operating systems, database technology, web servers, and commercial software. This isn’t the approach we take at Tier 3, however.
We see at least two challenges with templates.
- Impossible for providers to match complete need, and difficult for customers to maintain custom templates. The number of templates offered by leading cloud providers range from dozens to thousands. With templates, the provider aims to offer as many useful combinations of OS + software as possible. However, this requires providers to engage in an endless quest to assemble server images that are useful to customers.
What if the customer doesn’t see anything they like? Sure, you can upload custom templates, but that shifts the maintenance responsibility to the customer. The provider may have automation tools available for updating and patching images, but enterprise IT departments may not have the necessary capabilities to do the care and feeding of a custom template library.
- Not a complete replacement for the way enterprise IT builds servers today. IT organizations don’t typically rely on a library of server templates when they build new machines. Instead, they follow a more assembly-line approach to stand up a server for a particular system. This includes selecting the operating system, joining a server to a domain, adding storage, and installing the relevant software. Advanced organizations have software catalogs that help with automated installation, but many companies still rely on physical media or installation files residing on shared network drives. So what’s the problem? We find that a template-driven model can give a misleading sense of deployment speed as the server is *available* quickly, but still requires a significant number of follow on tasks until the server is actually enterprise-ready.
So what is Tier 3’s model?
The Better Way
Instead of relying on templates, Tier 3 offers a reliable orchestration engine (called Blueprints) that lets you choose what software and script commands to run when creating a new server.
There are three things that our customers like about this.
- Match unique needs through just-in-time software combinations. It’s impossible to pre-build server templates that match the individual needs of each customer. While a good template can serve as a foundation for subsequent manual activities, we went a step further. We offer a diverse set of base operating system templates, and offer a catalog of enterprise software products that can be layered on after the server is built.
The logical – and automated – extension to how IT builds servers today.Building a server isn’t just about installing an operating system and some software. System administrators go through a series of activities to provision storage, join network domains, acquire IP addresses, disable unnecessary services, and much more. Besides just offering a software catalog, we also provide a series of tasks and scripts that you can run against a new server. Tasks include activities such as adding a (public) IP address or taking a snapshot of the new server.
Scripts are commonly used to configure the server (and its corresponding software). Tier 3’s build process lets you run a variety of scripts to get your server into a finished state.
Extensible to meet enterprise standards. We won’t claim to have all the software and scripts that you need to meet your enterprise security and software standards. That’s why we fully encourage you to upload your own software and scripts into a private library just for your organization. Anything in your library can be applied to your new or existing servers.
Do you have a unique script command to run just for a single server build process? The Tier 3 Blueprints engine supports custom PowerShell, Command, and SSH script statements that get executed after the server is built.
Customers are free to create and maintain server templates in the Tier 3 environment, and some do. But we’re seeing more and more customers opt for the orchestration engine approach. This way, customers can build servers exactly how they want them, every time! Check out our tier3.com Servers and Blueprints pages to learn more about how we help you automate the server build process.
Toolset creates best practice-optimized, reusable “Blueprints” of complex environments for automated deployment and IT self-service delivery models
BELLEVUE, Wash.—August 24, 2011—Tier 3, Inc., an enterprise cloud platform provider, today announced the Environment Engine, a platform agnostic toolset that automates the design and deployment of complex environments and applications onto the Tier 3 Enterprise Cloud. From network and storage layer all the way through OS and application, the toolset turns complex environments into best practice-optimized, reusable “Blueprints” for deployment via new IT self service delivery models. The company also announced an initial, robust set of cross-platform Blueprints that Tier 3 will make available to its Enterprise Cloud Platform customers at launch. While third-party scripting tools automate only at the top (application deployment) or bottom (server image configuring) of the platform stack, the Tier 3 Environment Engine (see datasheet and demo) integrates these functions into a simple toolset built to interface with every aspect of the Tier 3 cloud platform. The Environment Engine toolset consists of a Blueprint Designer, Blueprint Library and Blueprint Builder that together create a seamless automation workflow to manage creation and storage of Blueprints as well as discovery and rapid deployment of these tested configurations. “Deploying complex environments and applications into the cloud can be just that – complex – with words like ‘consuming,’ ‘costly’ and ‘error prone’ coming to mind for many. Automation, on the other hand means simplicity and agility for both IT and the business,” said Jared Wray, chief technology officer, Tier 3. “The Environment Engine greatly simplifies deployment of cloud-based services and, combined with the already robust automation in our Enterprise Cloud platform, opens up new IT service delivery models for our customers.“ The Environment Engine Cloud Automation Process—Utilizing the Blueprint Designer, the application or environment owner scripts core Blueprint building blocks, including (but not limited to) all aspects of host configuration, network configuration, firewall and firewall rules, load balancing and autoscale rules, and the sequenced events based on scripts and task lists to provision applications based on upstream or downstream dependencies. The Blueprint is then uploaded to the Tier 3 Blueprint Library.—Browsing the Blueprint Library, users select the Blueprint best suited to their requirements based on variables including categories, keyword, characteristic filters such as OS or sizing, Blueprint maturity, or social feedback.—Leveraging the Blueprint Builder tool, users can then configure pre-defined variables in the selected Blueprint to deploy complete, hardened, best practice-optimized environments in the Tier 3 Enterprise Cloud in just minutes. Automation use cases for the Tier 3 Environment Engine The Environment Engine facilitates the onboarding of complex environments onto Tier 3’s Enterprise Cloud, a true enterprise-class cloud platform with 99.999 percent (“five nines”) SLA across server, network and storage; security; built in disaster recovery and predictive optimization technologies for uncompromising performance across the entire stack. Use cases in beta include:—Enterprise IT leverage Blueprints to be more agile and responsive to business demands via IT as a Service models. By enabling customer self-service of complete application environments (such as SharePoint, etc.) hosted in the Tier 3 Enterprise Cloud, IT departments speed deployment while reducing demand on IT ops resources.—Independent software vendors (ISVs) can accelerate adoption and deployment of their applications by publishing optimized Blueprints to the Tier 3 library for customer use.—Developers can integrate into the system via a full API and XML schema, integrating their systems directly with Tier 3 to automate provisioning of complex applications. Not only does this reduce operational support costs, but it dramatically improves customer experience. Cost & Availability The Environment Engine toolset is in private beta today, with general availability expected in October. The toolset is a value-added service at no extra charge to existing Tier 3 customers. At launch, Tier 3 will make available a core set of some of the most common and complex Blueprints for enterprises, including: • Microsoft SharePoint® Server • Microsoft Exchange® Server (Single Server) • Microsoft Exchange® Server HA: Using data availability groups • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 • Active Directory • Team Foundation Services • ASP.NET & SQL Web App: Single Node • ASP.NET 2 Node Web Application: Contains front end web server and backend SQL server • LAMP Stack See the Tier 3 Blueprint Engine Demo in booth 213 at VMworld August 29 –Sept 1 in Las Vegas About Tier 3 Tier 3, based in Bellevue, Wash., goes beyond traditional cloud offerings to provide an agile, self-optimizing enterprise cloud platform. Enterprises large and small depend on the company’s secure, intelligent platform to run their mission-critical, production applications and services so they can focus on their core business. They realize the cloud benefits of lower TCO and dynamic scaling delivered on an enterprise-class platform with SLAs, security, and built-in disaster recovery. Innovative technologies deliver predictive optimization for unprecedented performance at all layers. For more information, visit http://www.tier3.com.
Today we released automated provisioning of vpn services for our users. This is very exciting as it is part of our total goal of full automation and self servicing on our platform. Now with a single click of creating your server we will build out your VPN services without any configuration or setup from you all on demand. We have been working on this for a while and have been using this product under the covers which up until now was just for testing. If you already have VPN services with us then you will migrated over the next 6 months and someone from your account team will contact you. Here is a quick run down of the features:
No configuration required! All of the routing and setup is done for you automatically!
Works with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux
First concurrent user is free!
It will automatically build out your vpn server when you build your first server.
You can add or remove users via the control system
Only 25.00 per concurrent user and bandwidth costs per month.
Each customer gets their own instance which gives better performance and isolation than traditional models.
It is based on standard Open VPN which is widely tested and supported.
Can be enabled to do two factor authentication by setting up your Active Directory or LDAP server to it.
Go and check it out under your Network tab in the control system!