First, some big-picture background. The cloud aggregator industry seems to be accelerating rapidly. Most of the major IT distributors -- Avnet, Ingram Micro, Tech Data and more -- have cloud aggregator or cloud services strategies in place. Tech Data will update its TD Cloud initiative during a conference next week in Tampa, Fla.; and Ingram will host a cloud conference March. (Both are among our Top 100 Channel Partner Conferences of 2013.)
Meanwhile, ConnectWise (essentially, LabTech's parent or sister company) has launched and app store (ConnectWise Marketplace) and has a growing number of distribution relationships in place with such companies as Reflexion Networks.
Also of note, MSPmentor has started to wonder if some emerging cloud monitoring tools will leapfrog RMM software. On Talkin' Cloud, our sister site, we're now tracking more than 20 cloud-related monitoring tools here and here.
Don't Lump Them All TogetherOf course, it's important to mention that the tools have different purposes:
- Some cloud-based monitoring tools were designed with traditional RMM in mind, helping MSPs to maintain on-premises notebooks, PCs, servers and increasingly converged data centers.
- A growing number of tools are extending toward hybrid cloud management, potentially giving MSPs a single dashboard for monitoring and managing on-premises and cloud-based services.
- Some emerging tools are built for next-generation cloud application monitoring and optimization, with key focus areas including such areas as Big Data management.
LabTech's Long-term Goals
With all those twists and turns in mind, LabTech's Nachtrab and I traded some email about where his company will play over the long haul.
"We have spent a lot of time researching the impact of the secular change from on-premise servers to the cloud," said Nachtrab. In response, LabTech has two long-term strategies:
- For starters, LabTech will help MSPs to incorporate more and more cloud offerings into their business models.
- LabTech wants to make it easy for VARs and MSPs to provision, monitor and bill end-customers for various cloud products and services.
"When you look at penetration of cloud-based solutions into small business, I believe the only path to success is through the IT solution provider channel. In order for that to happen, [MSPs and VARs] must be able to create a profitable offering to their clients. Most cloud players are not creating end-to-end business models for them and penetration to small business is weak. I am working on ways to help our partners incorporate cloud offerings into their business model. We want to make sure the IT solution provider channel [is] firmly in the driver's seat with their relationship with their clients by having a solid cloud offering they can profit on. Partners that I have talked to that are successful offering cloud applications and private cloud servers are very successful."Then, Nachtrab shifted his thoughts to the provisioning, monitoring and billing capabilities. He stated:
"This is happening behind the scenes at LabTech. It will be a multiyear strategy, but started with technology we built around the doyenz interface. We actually have a patent pending on the automated provisioning and management of cloud services on some of the technologies we used in the Doyenz interface. We plan to add to the ability to manage many other cloud applications using the technology we have already created. Lots more will come as we complete our projects that make management of cloud based applications and servers."Read between the lines and LabTech almost sounds like it wants to be a cloud aggregator, giving MSPs a single dashboard to select, activate and manage cloud services for end-customers.
More Moves Coming?Some distributors, particularly Ingram Micro, are pretty far down the cloud aggregator road. And somewhere within all this, you can imagine Autotask potentially using its SaaS platform as an online store for third-party cloud tools.
Still, the ConnectWise-LabTech family has a solid knack for building highly targeted ISV relationships. It's safe to say those relationships will increasingly extend to cloud services providers (CSPs) that offer hosted solutions to MSPs.