Flexiant buys Tapp for multi-cloud management tech, plans assault on MSP market

The London-based cloud orchestration outfit Flexiant has acquired the Tapp business of Spain’s Besol for an undisclosed cash-and-shares amount, giving it a big boost in multi-cloud management that it hopes will further endear it to managed service providers (MSPs).

Tapp is a RightScale competitor of sorts, and its cloud brokerage system gives Flexiant something that can manage the services of infrastructure providers and orchestrators from Amazon(s amzn) EC2 to OpenStack to VMware(s vmw) to, well, Flexiant. “We’ve been looking at this for 18 months now. We looked at number of vendors in this area to acquire,” Flexiant CEO George Knox told me ahead of Wednesday’s announcement. “It’s well-recognized, mature technology – it would have taken us probably at least 2 years to build this.”

Flexiant’s pitch to the MSP market goes like this: MSPs risk becoming less relevant as end customers go straight to the providers, but it’s a heterogeneous world and MSPs may find their place in managing complexity, rather than necessarily trying to build their own infrastructure-as-a-service setup (which was Flexiant’s old pitch), but the likes of RightScale don’t focus enough on the needs of MSPs (RightScale may have a different opinion on this).

“The MSP market hasn’t developed the way we thought it would,” Knox said. “MSPs just selling bits of software [and hardware] are going to be in a low margin business, but MSPs who are selling a service level agreement… The end customer doesn’t want all that complexity, and we think the MSP is going to have a bigger role because there will be more complexity about providing tailored SLAs to the end customer.”

Speaking of SLAs, Knox took the opportunity to knock the federation model (naming no names, but it may mean that of OnApp) for poor differentiation scope and quality control. “We think it’s technology-first, not customer-first,” he suggested, questioning how MSPs could tailor SLAs through such a model.

Tapp’s roadmap

In the third quarter of 2014, Flexiant will release Tapp as a white-labelled software-as-a-service product for MSPs, boasting features such as DNS-as-a-service, network load balancing, monitoring integrated with New Relic, Chef-based application blueprinting, inter-cloud migration and application autoscaling that’s based on end-user experience. Then, towards the end of the year, Tapp will be properly integrated with the Flexiant Cloud Orchestrator to give it proper multi-cloud capabilities – this is more aimed at Flexiant’s other target markets.

“There are service providers and hosters who also want potentially to integrate with other cloud providers,” Knox said. “From a capacity-planning point of view, if you reach your threshold and want to burst through to Amazon on a temporary basis while building out your own [capacity], you can do that.” This, he posited, would help such players appeal to certain developers that are currently just heading straight for EC2 or Google.

Of course, this is ultimately the challenge for the likes of Flexiant – can anything stop those developers going straight to the source? That question remains unanswered, but it’s entirely plausible that some MSPs will be able to find their audience in this cloudy new world. Knox reckons there are 30,000 MSPs in the U.S. alone, so explicitly targeting them does seem a good idea.