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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

On a Journey with Managed Service Providers (MSPs) for a Better Encryption KMS Solution

Posted by Patrick Townsend on Aug 10, 2020 3:30:31 PM

Every now and then something completely unexpected happens that changes your life. No, I’m not talking about the COVID pandemic - that’s a completely different story. What happened for me is that in the course of my work in business development of our key management server (KMS), I met the CEOs of two different Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and they welcomed me into their world. With grace and patience, they helped me leave behind my preconceived notions about software sales and introduced me to how their world works. Neither of these two CEOs were obligated to mentor me and to give me their time, but I am so grateful that they did. It opened a new vision for me and our team here at Townsend Security.

If you work at an MSP firm, I hope you will read on. I will tell you how I turned my lessons into real benefits for the MSP.

VMware Cloud Providers & MSPs - Win New BusinessManaged Service Providers are varied in what they do, but at the core of their business is the desire to provide IT expertise, hosting facilities, business continuity and disaster recovery, and lots of other IT services to small and large organizations. They do everything from fixing user PCs to deploying top-end servers, security, and cloud services. Expertise is at the core of the value they provide to organizations. During the COVID crisis, they are on the front lines of trying to help everyone migrate to work-from-home and they are trying to secure that environment.

They are just some of the quiet, hidden heroes who don masks and rush into data centers and offices to keep us all operational. They provide great value to organizations especially in the current crisis. These MSPs taught me about their business and about the difficulties they have with key management vendors. In a time when security is top of mind for their customers, they struggle with a KMS industry that is stuck in the past. We were definitely one of those. As we talked, the light came on for me. All of the problems they were having with KMS vendors were problems that we could solve! All it took was a commitment from us, and a change in our business practices.

Here are some things I learned from my MSP CEO mentors:

  • Their businesses run on a usage-based model. For example, they might host a VMware environment for an end customer and charge them on the basis of the number of Virtual Machines (VMs) or vSAN storage they manage on a monthly basis. They provide immediate, on-going value to their customers and they prove their worth on a day-to-day basis.
  • They deploy third-party software solutions to help them accomplish their mission. They prefer to use software solutions that match their business model. For example, some of the common backup solutions like Veeam can be deployed by MSPs on a per-month, per-VM basis. It’s great when an MSP can deploy these types of solutions on a usage basis. It is how they run their business and greatly reduces their risk. KMS vendors are not helping.
  • MSPs live in a complex technical world, and they have special needs from their software vendors. They probably deal with more technical complexity than any other IT segment. Hardware, software, Windows, Linux, security, networking, cloud, smart phones – where does it end? This means they need software solutions that are easy to install, deploy, manage and report on.
  • An MSP deals with a lot of software “vendors”. What they really need are software
    “partners”. A software vendor sees the MSP as a resource (money) extraction
    opportunity. A partner is someone who saddles up and goes into battle with you. With a partner, you will either win together or lose together. This is an incredibly important distinction to the MSP, and a really big challenge to the software vendor.
  • The MSP needs more than a software solution from a partner. With all of the complexity of the services an MSP delivers, the MSP needs help from the software partner to sell the solution, to support the solution, and to be a trusted advisor. Can the software partner help with sales collateral? How about with joint sales calls? Can we do joint webinars and podcasts that help build confidence in customers and potential customers?

Here at Townsend Security we live in the world of data security. We have encryption and key management solutions to protect data at rest. We have a number of MSP customers. Before I had the conversation with our MSP mentors, we approached each of our MSP customers the way any legacy software company would. We offered the basic perpetual and subscription licenses. We have always been very price competitive, but it was basically a take-it-or-leave it approach. We charged for each key manager that we sold.
We were a perfect example of the “vendor” problem the MSP experiences. So, we set out on a journey to see if we could align our business with MSPs and become the “partner” they want and need. It meant changing a lot of our assumptions and business practices. You will know when you have a true partner when they lean in with their marketing and technical teams to make you successful. Our goal is to be that partner!
Here are some of the things we’ve done:

  • Adopted a Pay-As-You-Go model for MSP partners. We now charge a very small monthly fee for each encrypted VM or database. Gone are the perpetual and annual subscription licenses. Scale up or scale down as you like. We get paid when you get paid. Full stop.
  • Dropped all upfront fees or annual minimums. We are aiming for perfect cost and
    revenue predictability for your MSP business.
  • Stopped counting the number of key management servers the MSP runs. The MSP
    deploys key servers in the way that makes sense. Multiple physical hosting sites, on-premise deployments, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), encrypted storage? We don’t care, we are all in.
  • We trust the MSP to deliver their services and expertise on their hosting or cloud
    platform, and on their customer’s premises. MSPs conduct their businesses in a variety of ways. If we achieve true partner status you will feel that we are fully behind you and support you and take the risks with you.
  • We train the MSP on how to deploy our solution. We have video, on-line
    documentation, and one-on-one training to help you get up and running quickly. We don’t charge for training; we just lean in to help you get the job done.
  • We support the MSP with 24/7/365 business interruption support program at no extra charge. Support is built right into the low monthly fee.
  • Provide sales support by doing joint customer calls, answering security questions, and providing guidance on meeting compliance regulations. We don’t charge for helping you close a sale; we will win the deal together.
  • Provide sales collateral that includes sell sheets, educational material, joint webinars and podcasts, and much more. We don’t charge for sales and marketing collateral.

I feel like I’ve been on a fast learning track and have gained some great new friends. They are sharing with us what they need, and we are leaning in to help them be successful. It is an immensely rewarding experience.

Here is what one of our MSP customers said:

“You said the magic words of MSP and Low cost, consumption based! We’ve struggled to find a KMS solution we can properly price and sell to our customers to do VM encryption. Solutions like XXXXXX are prohibitively expensive. Your low cost per encrypted VM per month is very reasonable. I’m glad those MSP’s helped you understand our market and that you were able to see the opportunity. You NEED to be marketing this. You’re solving a problem that MSP’s a) don’t think they can afford to fix, and b) are just ignoring the compliance of because it’s “too hard and too expensive.” I highly encourage you to get the word out through marketing to MSP’s. Thank you, Patrick. You made my day.”

If you are an MSP we would like to “make your day.” You can start your journey here

Evaluations of our Alliance Key Manager are available at no charge. We provide technical
support through the evaluation at no charge. Let’s do this together!

Patrick

Encryption Key Management for VMware Cloud Providers

Topics: Partner, Hosting Providers, MSP

Encryption and Key Management for VMware Hosting Providers and MSPs

Posted by Luke Probasco on Jun 12, 2020 9:40:30 AM

VMware has become the most trusted name in on-premise computing infrastructure. Because of its ease of use and administration, reliability and security, VMware is able to provide exceptional services to small and large organizations alike. As these organizations move to the cloud, VMware hosting partners and managed service providers (MSPs) are able to service this market by providing off-premise deployments of VMware and an extensive array of VMware management and administrative services. For more information on how VMware hosting providers can better secure customer data, check out our "Definitive Guide - Encryption Key Management for VMware Cloud Providers" page.

Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption & Key ManagementI recently sat down with Patrick Townsend, Founder and CEO of Townsend Security, to talk about how Townsend Security is helping VMware hosting providers meet the challenge of encryption and encryption key management, while supporting the usage-based business model core to many of these hosting providers.  Additionally, Patrick discussed VMware architecture, VMware security, delivering compelling hosting & services, and compliance, standards, and encryption.

Hi Patrick. In recent years VMware has embraced the movement to the cloud with key partnerships with leading cloud service providers. What is less well known is that VMware has spawned and supports a broad set of hosting providers that serve local and regional markets. These VMware hosting providers also provide the expertise and managed services that many large cloud providers do not.

There are a fair number of VMware hosting providers and MSPs now with their own hosted, or cloud, platforms who are running VMware full stack implementations for their customers. Customers now have many options for managing their VMware infrastructure on premise or at a VMware hosting provider data center.  Many of these customers maintain both on-premise and hosted environments to meet their customers’ business needs. The VMware ecosystem is growing and resilient, and an important part of the IT services landscape.

Security has got to be essential for these hosting providers and MSPs. What do you think they are doing well and where could they use a little help?

Well, security is a core focus of VMware applications, and the security features have had a lot of time to mature. For example, VMware now offers encryption in several of their products. However, the deployment of proper encryption relies on support from third party KMS vendors. Realizing the importance of key management, VMware adopted the Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) standard, which allows vendors like Townsend Security to provide key management solutions that allow businesses to store and manage their encryption keys through their entire lifecycle.

Townsend Security is proud to help VMware hosting providers and MSPs implement encryption and do it the right way that matches their business model.

So, let’s spend a minute and discuss delivering compelling hosting and services.

VMware hosting providers and MSPs are rapidly changing the way that VMware customers are managing their IT infrastructure. These VMware partners are filling a services and support gap left by typical, large cloud service providers. Hosted VMware infrastructure, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), automated backup and recovery, and expertise on demand provide compelling value to VMware end customers. Amazingly, many of these VMware hosting partners are providing a far more affordable solution than large Cloud Service Providers. Townsend Security’s Alliance Key Manager is filling the KMS gap for VMware hosting providers and MSPs by providing an Enterprise KMS system that matches the way they do business. Gone are the complexities of sourcing, deploying, licensing and administering a KMS for the VMware environment. Townsend Security empowers the VMware hosting provider with on-premise and customer premise solutions for every VMware KMS need.

There are a few strategies that these hosting providers and MSPs can use to secure customer data in VMware environments.  For example, data can still reside on-premises or in the cloud and be encrypted in VMs or in vSAN, or even through Virtual Trusted Platform Module (vTPM).  First, let’s cover On-Prem and the Cloud. 

Sure. Many VMware hosting providers and MSPs often are the experts who manage a customer’s on-premise VMware infrastructure. If you don’t have in-house expertise these partners can step up to help you. This means that the same security tools that are used at the hosting site need to be available at the customer site. This is a core part of the value that a VMware hosting provider and MSP provides to their customers - run VMware on-premise, on their cloud, or combine the two. Some VMware MSPs provide expertise and services to help their customers move to one of the larger cloud platforms. 

If you are a VMware hosting provider and you provide this type of service to help customers move to Microsoft Azure VMware Solution, Google VMware Cloud Engine, or IBM Cloud for VMware, or other full-stack VMware cloud service, we can help you with your KMS needs in the same way. 

Let’s circle back to how data is being encrypted in VMware

As a VMware hosting provider or MSP, you are able to quickly and easily deploy encryption of VMs for your customers with vSphere encryption. It is important to not forget about also deploying a KMS. The second most popular encryption option in a VMware environment is the encryption of vSAN virtual directories. The VMware architecture for key management for vSAN is the same vSphere KMS cluster configuration used for encrypting VMs. Encryption of vSAN storage is one of the great ways to protect databases in the VMware infrastructure. It can be expensive to upgrade Oracle, SQL Server or MongoDB to get encryption support, but you can easily provide encryption at rest by deploying these databases on encrypted vSAN storage at a fraction of the cost of an upgrade. And you can do encryption at rest for open source databases that do not directly implement encryption or proper key management. This includes MariaDB, PostgreSQL, SQLite and others.

Another option is to use OS encryption through the virtual trusted platform module (vTPM), right?

The Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip is implemented on many Intel architecture servers and provides an additional level of encryption key protection in traditional server environments. Unfortunately, the TPM architecture works poorly in a VMware environment where workloads can move and migrate between servers. Thankfully, VMware came to the rescue with Virtual TPM (vTPM)!  By installing the appropriate vTPM drivers from VMware you can achieve TPM security that works natively with your VMware platform. vTPM also leverages the same vSphere KMS interface, so encryption and proper key management are easy to deploy.

How is Townsend Security helping VMware hosting providers and MSPs with encryption and key management? 

Townsend Security has been a VMware partner for many years.  Our KMS, Alliance Key Manager, is certified by VMware on all releases of vSphere and vSAN that support encryption. At Townsend Security we have worked hard to create a hosting provider/MSP program that takes the pain out of a KMS partnership. Most notably, if you provide VMware hosting services on a usage-based model, we will help you deliver a KMS for encrypted VMs and vSAN with the same model. For example, if you are charging your customers per virtual machine or per main memory, depending on how much you use, we will snap right in to your environment and help you deliver encryption of VMs and vSAN in the same way.We do this with no upfront fees, no annual license charges or separate maintenance fees, we just make it really simple to deploy and use for the VMware hosting provider.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about your partner program?

First, it is very easy and simple to get started with our partner program.  Just visit www.townsendsecurity.com/msp. If you are interested in more information, there is a short form to fill out. We make it extremely cost effective for hosting providers to deploy encryption and key management for their customers.  I’d also like to mention that our KMS is certified for every version of vSphere and vSAN that support encryption, is validated for PCI-DSS compliance, and has been through a FIPS 140-2 validation.

You can actually download Alliance Key Manager for VMware directly from our website and immediately load it into VMware.  We also have our support team ready to help you get deployed - without a charge. It just takes minutes. We are proud to have lowered the barrier to entry and administrative overhead typically associated with encryption key management - which makes it easier than ever for VMware hosting providers and MSPs to offer better security to their customers.

To hear this conversation in its entirety, download the podcast “Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption & Key Management” to hear Patrick Townsend, Founder and CEO, further discuss VMware architecture, VMware security, delivering compelling hosting & services, and compliance, standards, and encryption.

Delivering Secure VMware Hosting with Encryption & Key Management

Topics: Encryption Key Management, VMware, Hosting Providers

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