Is management software as a service a good choice for the mid market?

I've been hearing from a number of companies that are offering systems monitoring and management products as a cloud service. A key question is should decision makers in mid market companies be interested in these offerings? As with many information technology-based questions, the answer is "it depends."

A historical view of computing in the mid market

In the 1980s, it was common for mid market companies to deploy IT-based solutions using a single system. That system provided the user interface, the business rules processing, the data management, storage management and even network management. This system was responsible for everything. It could be housed in a "data closet" and would quietly do its work with little or no fuss.

Stories abound of these systems running for years without calling attention to themselves. They required expertise, but that expertise could be provided by a partner. The company's own staff could simply access the applications and magic would happen.

Complexity rears its interesting head

Over the years, each of the functions of the systems: the user interface, the business rules processing, the data management, storage management and even network management were migrated into separate functional or appliance systems. Important functions may have been replicated and run on separate systems to increase levels of reliability or performance.

Some organizations have drawn them all back together to execute in virtual machines on a single physical host. The multi-system complexity is still there, however, hiding in that one enclosure.

Each of the functional servers, regardless of whether it is hosted on a physical or virtual system, may be executing a different operating system, be written in a different programming language and may require a great range of hardware and software expertise to function properly.

As some of these "components" are moved out of the company's own data closet into the data center of a cloud service provider, the complexity only increased. Now the systems could reside somewhere else on the planet without the company really knowing where the processing and data are living.

The emergence of management software as a service

The major suppliers of management software, BMC, CA, HP and IBM as well as a host of smaller suppliers have seen this problem grow and saw it as an opportunity to create products and services to help mid market companies.

Like larger organizations, mid market companies have the same needs to monitor and manage their systems. Their challenge is that they often have neither the budget or the technical resources to deal with today's complex, distributed computing solutions.

These suppliers have begun to offer software as a service offerings designed to be easy to install and use as well as to take the complexity and fear out of the task of monitoring and management of IT-based workloads.

After all, all the company needs to do is connect their systems to a cloud-based monitoring and management service. Separate systems, software and staff aren't needed — they are provided as part of the service offering. This can reduce the cost and complexity of managing workloads.

Who can help sort out this complexity?

Suppliers, such as IBM, have years of experience with these new approaches and are quite willing to help. They offer tools, expertise and, quite possibly management software as a service offering. Mid market decision makers would wise to learn about this expertise and knowledge and take advantage of them.

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This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

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