Master MSPs -- which offer education and multiple hosted services to VARs and aspiring managed services providers -- seem to be evolving in multiple directions. Some are becoming cloud aggregators. Others are expanding their SMB channel training services. But one thing is clear: No two Master MSPs seem to have the same business plan these days. Here's why.

Rewind to early 2008. At the time, MSPmentor was somewhat guilty of hyping master MSPs. We figured dozens established MSPs would launch Master MSP business practices -- training and empowering VARs and resellers to emerge as next-generation MSPs. Fast forward to the present and only a few Master MSPs have built sustainable businesses. Fact is, it's very expensive and time consuming to recruit, train and convert VARs into MSPs. And in some cases, Master MSPs have had to compete with SaaS services from MSP software vendors.

Overall, the Master MSP market seems to be segmenting. A few areas worth noting:

Established Master MSPs: Companies like Do IT Smarter and Virtual Administrator come to mind. They have  have focused heavily on training, educating and supporting emerging MSPs. The companies offer a mix of third-party remote monitoring, management and SaaS applications to those aspiring MSPs. Do IT Smarter was acquired in 2010 but continues to operate under its own brand. Virtual Administrator, meanwhile, recently announced a relationship with MessageWire and is working on multiple new business relationships (stay tuned).

In this space, we're also watching MSP Services Network and Cloud Services Depot -- which also promote NOC, help desk and other services to MSPs. Another crowd worth watching: Cisco solutions providers that potentially offer their NOC services to peer Cisco channel partners.

Distributors: Some critics say distributors aren't Master MSPs. But I think business units like Ingram Micro Seismic fit the Master MSP definition. Still, the distributor MSP model is evolving. Ingram Micro VP of Managed Services and Cloud Services Renee Bergeron positions Ingram as the leading cloud aggregator for the channel. Meanwhile, Synnex apparently is working on a range of cloud and managed services efforts with companies like Level Platforms, Intronis and Reflexion. And I believe Tech Data is developing a cloud and managed services strategy that may involve a growing relationship with Parallels.

Software Vendors: In some ways, software vendors can be considered Master MSPs. Zenith Infotech, for one, offers remote monitoring software, NOC (network operation center) services and now managed telepresence services (through sister company Vu Telepresence). And in some ways, I guess Kaseya could be considered an emerging master MSP, since the company is building out SaaS services that include remote monitoring, backup, security and perhaps even PSA capabilities for MSPs.

Like I said: It's getting more difficult to categorize master MSPs since business plans seem to be evolving rapidly. I've skipped dozens of potential Master MSP examples in this blog entry. And I wonder: As VARs and MSPs seek more training and cloud services options, which of the Master MSPs will evolve most effectively to meet those needs?

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