InterOPS offers managed network service

Taking a clue from Loudcloud's managed services approach, InterOPS Management Solutions on Monday announced the general availability of its Management Continuity Service offering.

InterOPS' play is to deliver "24x7" operations support on an "on-call" basis to companies with complex Web environments. Services include Web application availability, performance monitoring, event identification and resolution, issue reporting, and third-party dynamic datalink coverage.

According to Chris McLellan, InterOPS' founder and vice president of operations, InterOPS will not only optimize site performance but also let users focus on their core competencies.

"It's difficult for many companies to get the right people in place, or the right tools and skill sets," McLellan said. "We've taken some of the IT bulk out of the process."

The service works by establishing views into a client's environment to identify problems. The internal view is then integrated with external monitoring of the end-user's experience. InterOPS collects performance data for predictive management. When problems arise, InterOPS can intervene to resolve issues on the fly.

By outsourcing Web management to a company that only delivers services when they are needed, companies can derive financial benefits over building their own redundant -- but largely dormant -- facility.

The InterOPS service is also vendor-agnostic, letting customers continue to reap benefits from their legacy infrastructure, said Jeff Kaplan, InterOPS' vice president of marketing.

"There are service providers who are more than happy to take the whole thing over, which is pretty frightening to most corporations," Kaplan said. "Or they insist that the company adopt a whole new set of systems, which compounds the investments that they've already made."

Kaplan added that InterOPS could capitalize on the failure of some Web hosting companies, such as Exodus, to deliver on their promises to deliver managed services. Those companies may assure system availability, but they do not necessarily guarantee optimal performance, Kaplan said.

Andy Schroepfer, an analyst at Tier 1 Research in Plymouth, Minn., praised InterOPS' willingness to assume so much of an enterprise's operations. The company's ability to familiarize itself with its customers' operations and include itself within those procedures is unique within the managed services industry, Schroepfer said.

"They're taking a unique approach to a common problem," he said. "The wave of outsourcing has been out there for a while. If an enterprise wanted to outsource their entire operations just for co-location, they've likely already done that. Now the ones that are looking to outsource are looking for a lot more expertise, and they're looking to [delegate] a lot more responsibility than just hosting a server."

The managed services movement, spearheaded by one-time high-flier Loudcloud, has been victimized by weak a less-than-glowing public image, according to Kaplan.

"It's easy for us to prove that we have the technical capability to deliver what we say we'll deliver," he said. "The hard part is proving that we have the right processes, the right packaging, the right pricing, and the right guarantees in place to assure [customers] that the risks of working with a company like ours are minimal."

Indeed, Ed Mallen, InterOPS' president and CEO, noted that Loudcloud's announcement on Monday that it would offer its services in a modular, "pick and choose" distribution signaled a lack of confidence among the enterprise community to adopt managed services.

"Customers are saying, 'If you want my business, you're going to get it in bite-sized chunks,'" Mallen said.

Schroepfer added that the managed services industry is suffering from saturation.

"If we had half the companies out there, this would be a thriving marketplace," Schroepfer said. "There're too many companies that tried to come to market. Many of them are not worthy of being in the marketplace, and they dilute the message of the higher-quality players. You've got too many people trying to distribute too little business. Loudcloud is a good company, but they're going after such big pieces of business, and there's just so few out there, that they look ultra-weak."

But Mallen said that the InterOPS' ability to preserve legacy investments would give it an advantage in the highly competitive managed services market.

"Most of our value is that [our customers'] investment is safe," Mallen said. "Loudcloud requires you to host in their requirement, but we let [customers] continue to use Hewlett-Packard OpenView, BMC Software, or Tivoli."