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When Ultima cut the ribbon on its Labs operation back in February, the brief was for the operation to develop more technology and tools that could be used across the business, but after a few months, it became clear that what had been developed could be packaged and offered as a service that other MSPs could choose to take advantage of.
Ultima Labs launched its IA-Cloud offering earlier this month, marking the latest development in a journey the business has been on for the past few years under the leadership of Ultima CEO Scott Dodds.
“We probably started talking about this two or three years ago, and back then we were pretty early on, the story around automation and even RPA frankly wasn’t particularly well understood by most,” he said. “It’s been a massive shift over the past two or three years to bring a lot of this stuff into the mainstream.”
He added that from the start, the idea of the labs was to build automation tools that would make a difference to the business. “We were building it always with the MSP side of our business in mind, to take some of the load out of managing customer environments – in this case particularly around Azure, but also some RPA tools we developed.”
The IA-Cloud offering is designed to help MSPs manage and optimise customer workloads, and should result in reduced Azure management costs and happier customers.
There has also been attention paid to the autonomous workspace, which is currently a hot topic, with remote device management and other tools.
“These things were in the works for a couple of years while we learned how to automate them ourselves,” said Dodds.
Where the firm came across gaps in off-the-shelf automation tools, it wrote fixes for itself and patented its technology, and over time developed a solution that could fix a wide range of issues. From that, the idea of making those results more widely available emerged.
“The design criteria was to get us more efficient, but it happened through a number of different relationships and partnering, which is the core of the channel right now. It’s about making the best use of all the skills across the channel to try to deliver stuff,” he said.
Dodds added that the feedback from other MSPs was positive, and had been given support from Tech Data and Microsoft to get to this stage.
The other change that has happened over the past couple of years is a wider understanding of automation and the benefits it can bring.
“One of our propositions is that the more automation you have for some of these basic infrastructure services, the more money you can spend on innovation, because that’s what the promise is of this technology,” he said.
“Automation is not just about cutting costs, or saving costs, although that’s a big part of it,” said Dodds. “It’s about quality of service as well, because the more you automate using best practice and architect skills, and the more you codify that software, the better the quality of service, and that’s the bit that’s excited us the most.”