When it comes to the managed services market, Synnex President and CEO Kevin Murai (pictured) doesn't live in an ivory tower. During an interview yesterday in New York, Murai offered specific details about how Synnex -- a specialty distributor -- plans to engage more and more managed services providers (MSPS). As expected, the effort includes a close working relationship with itControl Solutions, a software company in Toronto. Here are some details.

First, a little background: Murai and other distribution industry leaders are in New York for the Global Technology Distribution Council conference, which runs May 4 and 5. During May 4 meetings, many distribution executives downplayed cloud hype and also pointed to new channel opportunities involving Cisco Systems.

However, our sit-down with Murai focused primarily on the managed services market. "Our strategy is pretty easy to explain," said Murai. "We want to be an enabler that helps VARs set up pro-active IT services." With that goal in mind, Synnex continues to work closely with itControl Solutions, promoter of the itControlSuite remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool. "It's the best RMM out there," said Murai. "As new [IP computing] devices come to market, itControl Solutions offers rapid support for them."

Murai said Synnex also hopes to "bring scale to a fragmented market," empowering VARs to use a single platform that can help bring customer systems into compliance with software licensing terms, among other opportunities. "One the VARs understand their customers' infrastructure, we can help them save their customers' money on energy while improving throughput."

Moreover, Synnex continues to expand its own NOC (Network Operation Center) services for channel partners. Instead of outsourcing the NOC, Synnex has built the system internally using its own staff, Murai said.

On the SaaS front, Murai was careful not to hype partner opportunities. "Ask me the same questions about SaaS and cloud six months from now and my answers may evolve a bit," said Murai. "It is a priority for us to not only participate [in SaaS], but also to grow and help our customers participate. Where will SaaS be deployed going forward? Our view is that in small and midsize business you’ll see a lot more traction ... I think enterprises will be more of a hybrid market and slower to move up to the cloud and SaaS opportunities."

Competitive Landscape

No doubt, managed services strategies vary dramatically from one distributor to the next.

Generally speaking, I believe the Ingram Micro Seismic team has bet the most on MSPs, inking a range of partnerships with SaaS- and MSP-centric software companies. Also, sources say Ingram will make additional strategic investments in Seismic, and those investments involve "board-level" commitments to the managed services market.

Plus, Seismic continues to push customer choice. Translation: It seems as if Seismic will increasingly offer multiple MSP options in each product category. For instance, Seismic has RMM relationships with both Level Platforms and CA's Nimsoft. I'd watch for that trend to continue across additional service categories.

Synnex President and CEO Kevin Murai is an Ingram Micro veteran, so he's very familiar with the Seismic game plan. Instead of emulating Seismic, Murai seems to be betting heavily on one RMM partner (itControl Solutions) and an internally developed NOC.

Meanwhile, Avnet Technology Solutions offers some MSP-centric options but to the best of my knowledge the MSP space doesn't seem to be a major thrust for Avnet at the moment. And Tech Data has partner relationships with a range of SaaS and MSP-centric software companies, but Tech Data has openly stated that it doesn't plan to build out its own MSP-centric hosting and SaaS services.

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