Pipeline Publishing, Volume 4, Issue 9
This Month's Issue:
New Doors, New Access
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New Opportunities in the
Remote Product Services Market
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By Randy Krenz

The market for outsourcing Remote Product Services (RPS) is escalating rapidly with some industry experts estimating that it will hit $290 billion by 2011. RPS is ideal for OEMs, VARs, and service providers tasked with tracking, repairing, and maintaining remote devices and equipment. The rapid increase in the remote services market can be attributed to a number of factors including escalating customer demand for higher availability and reliability of network services in conjunction with reduced in-house IT resources. In this fast growing space, service providers are poised to take advantage of this trend, by not only growing their customer base, but by also improving upon the services they currently offer, thereby fending off potential competitive threats.

The managed services market is ripe for OEMs or VARs looking to displace revenue from diminished product margins, or independent Managed Service Providers that are trying to find ways to increase customer adoption of service offerings. This article will discuss the keys to success in the RPS market by selecting the right RPS tools and offering the appropriate differentiated service levels that meet or exceed customer expectations.

A recent study on RPS by the Aberdeen Group found that the majority of equipment manufacturers surveyed intend to deploy commercial RPS solutions in the next 12 to 24 months. The report also states that those currently offering managed services plan to modify their business processes to incorporate both preventative and proactive approaches into service delivery. As more services move to "proactive" versus "reactive" based models, services organizations that have previously followed the "break-fix" services model will quickly find themselves struggling to protect their customer base from competitive threats. One key way to combat this threat is by offering differentiated service level agreements that guarantee uptime and accelerate problem resolution through proactive management, maintenance, and repair.

When examining the available tools to perform RPS, Service Providers must determine:

1: Do the available tools enable my organization to offer differentiated remote-based services?

2: Does the introduction of new tools introduce disruption to either my customers or my support processes?

3: Can the tools be deployed at a cost point that supports the business case for remote services offerings?

A base requirement of any proactive RPS tool is its ability to constantly monitor the health of the device or application so that it can

A base requirement of any proactive RPS tool is its ability to constantly monitor the health of the device or application so that it can identify potential issues before they reach a critical state.

identify potential issues before they reach a critical state. Monitor-only solutions are helpful but are limited by the service level they can offer because the solution still requires a "man in the van" to go to the customer site to address the problem. This scenario increases the chance of failure between problem discovery and resolution and also causes extended downtime if the device or application is already in a fault state.

Some service providers have found success by combining remote monitoring tools with external remote access methods such as VPNs or dedicated circuits. However, these combination solutions can add additional costs to service infrastructures because of the costs involved in deploying, scaling and managing the overlaying remote access methods. In addition, these methods may be unacceptable to customers because of the:

  • security risks they can introduce (i.e. requires holes in firewalls).
  • additional cost that may need to be passed on to customers to achieve remote connectivity.

However, there is a new breed of RPS tools that service providers should consider when looking to differentiate their services -- virtual infrastructure solutions. These solutions allow service providers to offer on-demand IP-based remote monitoring and management services without the use of complex VPNs or agents at customer locations. A virtual infrastructure RPS tool creates an overlay management network that makes all the devices appear to be on the same physical network as the service provider's data center, regardless of their actual location across the Internet. Simultaneously, these virtual infrastructure solutions allow customers to maintain security and compliance requirements when outsourcing IT management. By utilizing this new breed of RPS solutions, service providers

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