Challenges With Application Delivery

The MSP marketplace has exploded over the last 15 years and with that growth comes a more diverse marketplace and greater offerings to help attract clients. The need to provide even more services that have a real impact to the client has been at the forefront of this boom and drives the market for improving themselves over the simple “Geek Squad” mentality of let me fix your PC. The rapid pace of technological developments in the MSP space has introduced wrinkles to this paradigm that has left many businesses shackled to old methods of application delivery even as new means of application delivery offer a path forward.


Shannon Anderson, Sr. Systems Engineer and Application Developer with MainSpring Inc. has over 20 years of experience working with and managing MSPs. Shannon is an advocate for automation.  His vast knowledge of services provided by the MSP market makes him uniquely qualified to discuss the Pros and Cons of Application Delivery; what is evolved; whom the players are and how to come out on top with proven methods.


Application Delivery, What’s That?

Application Delivery is the ability to provide and push any software title to any end system using automation. When you start asking questions about Application Delivery, you will get a lot of different answers on what that entails. Many people tend to associate it with Application Maintenance which is not accurate. The key differences are being able to provide software to your clients when and where they need it.   Maintenance presumes that you have some key software that needs to be maintained. Application Delivery is being able to provide  software that can be pushed out to the MSP’s clients through automation and policies.

There are several services available to MSPs that allow them to provide application maintenance to their end customers.  These product provide access to a limited number of common software titles and are geared towards providing updates automatically for those software titles as a service. They are not really designed to deploy applications, but, to maintain a select set of them after deployments. Application Delivery is designed to deliver and maintain unlimited software titles to the end system through automation and policy. This process allows MSPs a more granular approach to how they expose their clients to deployment of technology and how to maintain consistency across a client and the MSP as a whole.


What’s Involved?

Application Delivery is a bit more involved than Application Maintenance and is one factor that separates the inexperienced MSP from the veteran MSP.  Application Delivery requires a lot more involvement from the engineering side of the MSP but in return adds diversity and manageability to the MSP’s offerings.  Unlike application maintenance where a vendor pre-qualifies a few updates, Application Delivery needs to account for thousands of applications and their updates which is a much larger responsibility to own.


What are the Pro’s and Con’s

This is arguably the most queried subject with Application Delivery in a MSP environment.   What does it do for me?  What is the catch? Application Delivery should not be taken lightly. There is a lot of work to do to make sure things run smoothly and that your clients get the best use of the services you offer. To deliver application efficiently today you need a deployment framework that allows for the hosting; security;  versioning and deployment of a large amount of applications. There are several frameworks being developed or used to provide this functionality to end systems. In the Unix world you have frameworks like Yum or Apt-get.  Likewise,  in the Windows world you have NuGet and Chocolatey.

Lets talk about some of the Con’s

Unlike with Application Maintenance where the vendor provides a vetted set of software application to update like Java, Flash and Adobe Reader, Application Delivery can provide any software you want to create packages for. This at first, would look like it should be part of the Pro’s list ,and it is, but it is also a Con for a lot of MSPs. By being able to provide unlimited software titles and unlimited version updates means there is less likely that a package has been vetted. This can bring up security concerns when delivering 3rd party software to your end client. If you use the public software repositories as your main distribution point then vetting the software and the providers is key in maintaining security over the software you install. Not doing so would invite elements into you managed networks that are undesirable. This means that you must do your homework; identify the resources that provide valid products; pre stage deployments and verify integrity.

The Pro’s on Application Delivery

When done right, the Pro’s are many indeed.  The one that stands out most to me is being able to control the deployment of approved applications consistently across our MSP. The selections of software titles can be vast depending on the repositories you use.  Chocolatey boasts that over 2500 applications and updates are hosted on the public repositories which dwarfs and maintenance vendors repositories. The delivery of applications are not just limited to freeware software.  Repositories often offer 3rd party paid software deployments and updates making the deployment of new hardware very easy and consistent with deployment policies. Another really great Pro in my opinion is the ability to host your own repositories providing another layer of security to your delivery processes. When building and creating your own deployment packages you have ultimate control over the software and the options enabled inside the package. Another Pro is that you are not limited by the software vendors available. Install software from Microsoft;Adobe; Apple; Google; Piriform; Kaspersky and Oracle to name just a few.


Who are the players?

When it comes to Application Delivery there are just a few names out there. More are available for the Application Maintenance market place. We named a few of the frameworks available to use for Application delivery as doing a search on Google may not produce much to help the average MSP. Both Kaseya and LabTech are offering to the MSPs that use their platforms a set of functions to maintain some applications.   You have 3rd party products like Ninite. Then there is Squidwork’s Chocolatey For LabTech which harnesses the Chocolatey framework to provide true Application Delivery.


Come Out On Top!

MSPs that succeed have one thing in common, that is they continue to push the edge of product service offerings expanding the level of service provided to their clients. Application Delivery is one way a MSP can make its mark on it customers and delivery exceptional services which will help retain and grow their business.




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