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!
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.
The shift to cloud services is, in part, about empowering business users to manage more of their own IT needs themselves. To wit, traditional infrastructure service providers are rapidly introducing self-service, elastic capabilities to meet market demand. Enterprises can deliver on their “IT-as-a-Service” roadmap with a branded cloud administrative portal – complete with rapid provisioning – that matches corporate guidelines.
Solving this scenario has been a roadmap priority for Tier 3. So we are pleased to announce new functionality today that helps resellers, ISVs, and enterprise IT shops deliver a personalized version of our cloud. Leading infrastructure provider like PEER 1 have found success with our model, and so can you.
How do we deliver a personalized cloud? Five key ways: user interface rebranding, content settings, email templates, single-sign-on support, and API access. Let’s briefly look at each of these.
User interface rebranding
Easily alter the visual appearance of the Control Portal, our web-based cloud management interface. This is the easiest – although most superficial – way to rebrand our cloud as your own. We provide two collections of settings for changing the look and feel of the admin console. The Site Branding settings let you define (1) the name of the site, and (2) the graphic logo associated with your brand.
Changing the site name and corresponding logo is straightforward, and you can revert to the default settings at any time.
Another way to customize the appearance of the Tier 3 Control Portal is to change the color palette used throughout the site. On the Color Scheme page, we offer a handful of default themes and let you define your own, to match corporate branding guidelines, for example.
The page shows a preview of the selected color scheme in real-time, so you can easily fine-tune colors to your requirements.
These changes – while cosmetic in nature – help adoption and increase engagement.
Enabling configurable settings is another big enhancement we introduced today. Now, many previously hard-coded settings can be adjusted in the UI.
First up, we give users the choice of showing or hiding the page footer. This flexibility is especially helpful for those embedding the Tier 3 Control Portal within a frame. Links within the footer can also be personalized.
This combination of settings makes it possible to specify where users can go for the most important support functions. Simply contact the Tier 3 NOC to activate these settings for your account.
A cloud infrastructure platform must make heavy use of automation and asynchronous processing. As a result, we send many different types of notifications to customers when certain tasks have completed or events have occurred. We’ve updated our software to enable customization of the 10 different email messages that are sent out from the Tier 3 platform.
Each of these templates supports a unique “from” email address, subject line, and message body. Many of the templates also support tokenized values in the message body so that you can provide specific data points in the email.
These templates help our customers craft specific messages in response to platform events and ensure a consistent voice in communication to customers.
Single sign on (SSO) support
Integration with an existing identity management system is often crucial for resellers and enterprises. So instead of forcing users to create yet another set of credentials, Tier 3 wants to make it easy for your users to simply access these functions with their same credentials.
Tier 3 supports the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) v2 standard, a protocol widely used to create SSO solutions. Using SAML, your identity management system (e.g. Windows Active Directory) generates a valid SAML token that is passed to Tier 3. We then validate that token and log the user into their Control Portal account. We’ve created a comprehensive Knowledge Base article (Using SAML for Single-Sign-On to the Tier 3 Control Portal) that demonstrates a complete walkthrough of creating a new Identity Provider and hooking it up to the Tier 3 platform.
There are plenty of cases where our customers want to interact with the Tier 3 cloud from within their own applications and portals. Thanks to our comprehensive API, it’s possible to do nearly everything in our cloud via a web service interface. Our API covers a number of critical feature areas:
- Servers. Create, configure and delete servers. Also reboot them, create snapshots, restore snapshots, and much more.
- Groups. Create and delete Groups of servers. Power off the servers in the group, put all servers into maintenance mode, and more.
- Blueprints. Orchestrate your solutions by querying and deploying Blueprint templates.
- Accounts. Create, update, suspend, and delete entire accounts.
- Users. Query, create, update, and delete user records.
- Billing Details. Among the first of its kind, our billing interface lets you retrieve invoices, view month-to-date charges, and see an estimate of future charges.
This API makes it simple to add Tier 3 actions into your own internal processes. For instance, you could provision users in the Tier 3 cloud whenever you onboard a new employee within a certain department. Or schedule a job that pulls Tier 3 invoices into your ERP system on the last day of every month. Provide a single page interface for developers to spin up temporary development environments. There are countless scenarios where the Tier 3 cloud can provide a backbone to services that you want to provide your customers and users.
These features offer a unique opportunity for organizations to capitalize on the shift to the cloud. Have ideas on how we can make these capabilities even better? Leave a comment here or contact us if you have an idea for additional features that would make Tier 3 your choice for a private label cloud.
New Relic has become a real leader in website performance analytics, and Tier 3 is thrilled to incorporate this service, for free, into our Web Fabric service. For each application deployed to Web Fabric, regardless of the language/framework that the application was written in, New Relic captures deep information about response time, throughput and more. While we’ve put some of the most interesting statistics directly in the Tier 3 Control Panel for at-a-glance viewing, we also enable you to drill right through to the New Relic site and discover even more valuable metrics. In this post, we’ll take a quick look at how we’ve incorporated New Relic’s monitoring data into the Tier 3 Control Portal.
Previously, Web Fabric users had a simple set of metrics about their running application(s) that included how much memory, CPU and storage was allocated for a given application.
This resource allocation information is important, but application owners also REALLY want to know how well an application is performing for their users! The brand new Control Panel dashboard shows a subset of the New Relic metrics that begin to give you a picture of an application’s health.
You can now see advanced metrics like website response time, throughput (pages requested per minute), error rates, Apdex and more. When you first create your Web Fabric environment, we automatically provision a New Relic account for you at no cost. Therefore, when you click the “New Relic” button at the bottom of this page, we perform a single-sign-on with New Relic and drop you right into their feature-rich dashboard environment.
From here, you can discover even more data points about a deployed application(s). You can drill into individual pages of the application and view a wide range of different reports.
Interested in seeing how the client’s browser is spending its time requesting and loading your application? There’s a report for that.
Curious as to the performance of the application for the global audience? There’s a report for that.
We at Tier 3 are very excited by this partnership with New Relic and we hope that you’ll find these advanced metrics extremely useful when monitoring and optimizing your PaaS applications deployed to Web Fabric.