Infrastructure-Focused MSP Sees 'Large' Value Opportunity In PaaS, Pivotal Cloud Foundry Partnership

First National Technology Solutions wants to help companies modernize their legacy applications with a new platform-as-a-service offering launched in partnership with Pivotal Cloud Foundry. 

"We want to move beyond just being an IaaS provider because we want to make sure we're continuing to bring value to our clients," Kim Whittaker, president of FNTS, told CRN. "We are very focused on having long-term relationships with our client base."

The Omaha, Neb.-based managed services provider has provided enterprise-level infrastructure and cloud services for the past decade, primarily serving the financial services, health care and retail spaces, as well as software firms operating in those verticals. Many of those clients, Whittaker said, are now competing with disruptive, born-in-the-cloud startups that have achieved more agile app development capabilities and quicker release times.

[Related: CIOs Up Spending On Containers, Microservices As Companies Increase Public Cloud Use]

The FNTS-managed Pivotal environment, with its consumption-based pricing, is meant to help established businesses bridge some of those gaps without making significant infrastructure investments for cloud-native development capabilities.

Whittaker said her company was impressed with Cloud Foundry's comprehensive toolset – particularly regarding the platform's post-deployment administration, management and security capabilities – because many FNTS clients rely on the solution provider for container-as-a-service support.

PCF features such as its app autoscaler, CI/CD tool integration, monitoring and Spring Cloud Services functions help businesses that, in Whittaker's eyes, tend to overlook the operational requirements of app maintenance.

FNTS is part of a Pivotal partner ecosystem that has now surpassed 100 consultancies and systems integrators, Pivotal announced Wednesday. Whittaker said she had witnessed a widespread cost- and speed-conscious shift to open source platforms such as PCF in recent years as tech providers move away from the "traditional" application development model.

"To us, it's a full platform," she said. "Beyond being able to push codes and the orchestration/security capabilities, everything has already been built into the platform. It's more of a true one-stop shop, which we think is going to enable our clients to be more efficient and gain a competitive advantage."

In conjunction with its PCF offering, FNTS – a Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services partner – has built a cloud management platform that allows clients to oversee their data center, private cloud and public cloud workloads from a single dashboard. Baked into the portal are self-provisioning capabilities such as CPU and memory adjustment, as well as orchestration and automation features.

Whittaker also said the FNTS platform has a price comparison tool that assists clients in mapping out their cloud strategies.

"If they're looking at setting up a server in Azure or AWS or our infrastructure, they can put in the configuration and see the price comparisons of what the server would cost in these different locations. You have some visibility, and they're planning out future workloads of where those should go," she said.

FNTS does not currently support Google Cloud Platform, but Whittaker expects the company will begin doing so in early 2018.

The a la carte FNTS solutions portfolio, which includes system management, networking and storage/backup services in addition to its cloud and platform offerings, will now feature enhanced database consulting capabilities, according to Whittaker. Down the road, she expects long-term initiatives around security services, IoT and big data analysis to further expand what the company can offer.

This again leads back to FNTS pushing to become more than an infrastructure provider. FNTS has met impressive success with an infrastructure-first focus, averaging 25 percent compound annual growth over the past five years. The 85-person company has doubled its revenue during that span.

But moving into PaaS presents a "large" opportunity for FNTS to keep its growth rate high, Whittaker said, because of the added relationship value those services can create for a solution provider when lift-and-shift cloud migrations eventually taper.

"It's truly a journey that's going to take some of those companies a longer time to completely fulfill," she said.

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