How to Select Your Managed Network Service Provider, Part 3
Service delivery platforms (SDP) refer to the hardware, software and applications that managed network service (MNS) providers depend on to deliver their services. The maturity, capability and nature of the SDP are important considerations when selecting an MNS provider.
In-House vs 3rd Party SDPs
Smaller MNS providers and those without software development capabilities depend on 3rd party platforms to meet their needs. Often, they pull together multiple tools to provide the necessary coverage and functionality.
MNS providers that develop their own SDPs have significant advantages:
- Tighter integration of the overall system as opposed to assorted toolkits cobbled together.
- Full-stack integration of the SPD is key to superior issue detection, root cause analysis, and problem resolution.
- Higher dependability, since they can rapidly address any issues with the SDP without having to depend on an external development entity for fixes and patches.
- The ability to constantly refine the SDP to match their process capabilities. This enables them to deliver greater efficiencies in the execution of workflows and automation.
MNS providers with mature SDPs feature larger libraries of built-in automations and wider coverage of customer premises equipment (CPE). This is driven by the fact that these capabilities are built over time, as the provider expands its experience to cover the needs of multiple clients and environments.
The SDP needs to monitor all the different components that make up the infrastructure estate. If there are certain vendor technologies that are not part of the SDP’s standardized monitoring functionality, it will need to be added specifically.
Similarly, if specific automation capabilities need to be added to support your needs, a mature provider can build it accordingly. And as we have seen in part 1, any kind of customization brings with it added cost and diminished levels of service assurance.
End User Portal
As a consumer of the services provided, you will interact with the SDP. This is typically done via an end-user portal. Typical interactions involve incident management, change management, configuration management and service requests.
These activities all require updated status information. So you should look for detail around how often the information is updated at the portal, and how easy it is to access.
In addition, reporting is a key function delivered via the portal. Avoid SDPs that provide only summary- level reports, since they do not provide detail around real-time performance or provide the data needed for trend analysis and other kinds of planning.
Seek out SDPs that go beyond monitoring and actually provide observability. This requires the platform to deal with large amounts of real-time and historical data to derive deeper insights. SDPs with built-in AIOps functionality have a significant advantage when it comes to delivering these results. Other kinds of analytical abilities to look for include dynamic thresholding for proactive anomaly detection.
As an enterprise, you probably already have IT Service Management (ITSM) tools and a Configuration Management Database (CMDB). Look for SDPs that provide APIs and the integrations to work with these in addition to their own built-in functionality.
The ability to streamline case management, enrich trouble-tickets and provide up-to-date status can be hugely beneficial if these integrations are reliable and easily put in place.
As services migrate to cloud-hosted providers, the challenge to maintain end-to-end visibility increases. SDPs that can integrate with digital experience systems have the ability to monitor end-user experience in real time. This makes it possible to detect anomalies in user communities or on a geographical basis. When they happen, your platform should be able to take proactive steps to minimize user dissatisfaction.
A Partnership Mindset
In this three-part series we have explored how to select an MNS provider by looking at it from a variety of different angles.
No matter how you choose your provider, keep in mind that this is an engagement with long reaching consequences. Look for an MNS provider that understands your business, your unique needs, and comes with a partnership mindset. A supportive MNS can help you meet your goals as a business – while providing a huge competitive advantage.