ManageEngine, the enterprise IT infrastructure management business unit of fast-growing Adventnet, has launched its low-cost model into cloud computing - and I do mean low.
The first suite being offered is its OpManager integrated network and server management, available as OpManager On-Demand—for now a free beta at http://ondemand.opmanager.com where some 250 users are already providing feedback—with general availability by July.
We can then expect its service desk management software to follow the same release pattern starting in July with desktop management following around October.
Normally such a move would involve creating an expensive new in-house server farm, but ManageEngine is able to leverage the three data centres and support infrastructure already in place that host its big sister Zoho (Google-like) business unit.
ManageEngine has over 32,000 users and a web-site boasting a "90:10 promise" referring to offering "90% of the features of the big four [network and server management software vendors] at 10% of the price". This cloud computing approach should go a lot further than that on price.
"It is a perfect fit for a new business," Rajesh Ganesan, director of managed services at ManageEngine, told me. "You pay for what you use at $5 a device. 100 devices means $500 a month. It is outsourced to experts." (However, he added that there would be additional charging for higher bandwidth and storage usage.)
Businesses' immediate savings will come from obviating the need to purchase and provision servers and storage hardware and applications, or to take time installing and configuring them. Thereafter all the potential disruption of implementing new software versions or patches will disappear—along with the time to diagnose and remedy infrastructure problems. So it is a safe bet some staff skills will no longer be needed.
The applications are essentially the ones already available for in-house use, so they are also tried and tested. Through cloud computing they will be accessible from anywhere (with a capability to switch to on-site editions).
Despite the low cost, larger organisations will undoubtedly be more reluctant to make the switch from in-house infrastructure support. They will want to see it work as a seamless extension to remaining in-house systems and need reassurance about data ownership and accessibility. Nevertheless, the cloud computing model is getting a close examination even among larger businesses in these cash-strapped times.
Ganesan made it clear there was no up-front charge while the licensing allowed users to walk away without penalties if they chose; payment would be one month in advance, including by credit card over the web! Yet he was relaxed that ManageEngine would not be swamped with demand. "Zoho has over 1½ million users and is very scalable. ManageEngine services will be as scalable as Zoho's," he said.
The user receives software which has a small footprint with a probe that does data collection. The rest is handled through an internet connection with an independent but central dashboard. When the additional service desk and desktop services are added they will both be handled as part of this common dashboard display.
Much of the work has been in needing to re-engineer the platform to allow multi-tenancy (so, for instance, one server may securely support 16–20 customers). As a result, this extends the potential market to include other managed service providers (MSPs); some of these have previously been put off offering remote management services to customers by the cost of establishing a suitable hosting infrastructure for the customer data.
OpManager On-Demand collects fault and performance data from servers, desktops and applications. It provides a business-centric management display which illustrates how business services will be impacted by a disruption within the infrastructure. Among the items being monitored are the network, servers, printers, routers, event log, Microsoft SQL and Active Directory, and URLs. It will provide alerts, auditing and comprehensive graphical reporting.
Currently, the software is supported on the three Zoho data centres in the US (two west coast, one east coast). Ganesan said he thought this would be acceptable in the EU once the Safe Harbor standard which was being worked as a priority was in place; ManageEngine would anyway be looking to establish a data centre within Europe.
So what of competition? While the big named companies are offering their software in an on-demand format—and may have all the bells and whistles—they are not about to match this sort of pricing model. One or two other dedicated providers could offer stronger competition, but Ganesan said differentiators were the Zoho infrastructure immediately and, when more services were added, its breadth of coverage.
If cloud computing is to take off and become dominant, the low-cost model will be what starts its engines revving. ManageEngine already has lift-off and should now make a fast ascent into the cloud.