Recap: Seven Trends From Managed Services Summit

The MSPAlliance held its Managed Services Summit earlier this week in Framingham, Mass. Although I didn't attend the event, I interviewed a few attendees and vendors to get a feel for their top priorities in the months ahead. Here are seven key trends I heard about:



1. Online Storefronts: Several MSP-focused companies are now launching online storefronts to make it easier for VARs and integrators to license their software. Autotask and Untangle, respectively, both told me they plan to open online storefronts.

Here's a bit more about Autotask's strategy.

Separately, Untangle continues to attract my attention because the company has succeeded in the open source world (we track open source a bit here, and much more closely on our sister sites, TheVARguy.com and WorksWithU.com.) Untangle's Shaun Gardner mentioned that his company's open source project ranks among the top 1 percent on SourceForge, the world's largest development and download repository.

I'm surprised more MSP solution providers don't leverage open source to speed development and quickly build "community" around their products and services.

2. Top 100 MSP Joins the Board: Dan Wilson, president of Waypoint Solutions Group (ranked #72 on our MSPmentor 100 list), has been elected to the MSPAlliance's board. I recorded a podcast with Wilson to hear more about his company and his presentation at the conference. We'll publish the podcast later this week.

3. Mike's Next Move: Mike Cooch, one of the most vocal readers of MSPmentor, continues to build out his company (Everon). He was a guest speaker at the summit, and he also sat down with me to record a podcast. We'll publish the conversation later this week. In the meantime, you can get a flavor for Mike's business strategy and small business focus by checking out his blog: www.smbITpros.com.

4. Content Management for VARs: Sugata Sanyal, CEO of ZINFI, described how his company's content management platform integrates with MSP solutions. Assuming it works as advertised (I haven't tested it), the hosted ZINFI solution allows VARs to quickly build blogs, reader forums, online storefronts and other Web 2.0-centric sites. Do IT Smarter, a so-called master MSP, is among the companies running sites on ZINFI.

At the conference, ZINFI announced a joint marketing and development agreement with Autotask, which will integrate Autotask’s back-office systems with ZINFI’s "lead generation and customer growth platform."

5. Voice over IP Converges With Managed Services: This is becoming a familiar theme for some progressive MSPs. Bob Cagnazzi, CEO of Bluewater Communications (one of Cisco's top solutions providers) recently told me he's focusing on managed VoIP services. (Check out our April 24, 2008 podcast for details.) And then, the trend popped up again when Ken Vanderweel, director of product marketing for Nimsoft, mentioned that a growing number of his customers are monitoring VoIP systems using a managed services approach.

6. CIOs Working With MSPs: To be sure, the line between corporate IT and outsourced IT is blurring. Nimsoft's Vanderweel confirmed one of my theories, saying that corporate IT leaders and MSPs increasingly share management dashboards so that they can view and troubleshoot events together.

As CIOs increasingly focus on innovation -- and outsource more and more rudimentary functions to MSPs -- I think we'll see more and more integration between corporate IT and MSP dashboards.

Blanketing corporate IT and the MSP market has been a solid strategy for Nimsoft. The company just announced another strong financial quarter.

7. Going Virtual: Some MSP platform providers, including Steven Ferman, president and CEO of CompuVault, foresee customers shifting more and more of their desktop and server applications into virtualized datacenters and co-location centers. Big winners in the trend will be companies like Citrix Systems and MSPs that are able to build or leverage virtualized server grids, where customers can be seamlessly moved from one system to another in a matter of minutes.

If you attended and spotted additional trends at the event, you're welcome to weigh in with comments below.

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