N-able Technologies wants to win the hearts and minds of Microsoft's North American partners and managed service providers. Indeed, N-able is offering Microsoft partners a free one-year subscription to a new software as a service (SaaS) platform called N-central Express.
The N-able announcement reinforces three key trends in the managed services market:
- Low- or no-cost starter platforms for managed service providers
- The continued convergence of software as a service (SaaS) with managed services
- The strategic value of Microsoft partners in the growing managed services market
N-able N-central Express is designed to remotely monitor and manage up to 10 IP-enabled devices. Microsoft partners can obtain a free N-central Express subscription at http://www.n-able.com/microsoftexpress. The new platform arrives less than a month after N-able and Microsoft announced some joint work.
In a prepared statement, N-able President and CEO Gavin Garbutt said N-central Express is designed to remove barriers to entry and make it "easy for solution providers to take that first step and start quickly automating their IT services and incorporating remote monitoring and management services into their solutions portfolio."
Going for the MassesN-central Express reminds me a bit of Autotask Go!, a $99 starter system that's designed to grow the overall market for business process automation and managed services software. As satisfied MSPs grow their businesses, they will likely be inclined to license more robust systems, N-able and Autask each hope.
N-central Express also reinforces the convergence of managed services with SaaS. Already, companies such as Do IT Smarter offer MSP platforms in SaaS configurations. The shift to SaaS-based MSP systems continues to accelerate, according to several high-level executive industry sources that spoke with MSPmentor last week. In fact, MSPmentor expects several major SaaS-MSP announcements to occur over the next two months or so.
At the same time, MSP platform providers are recruiting Microsoft partners for multiple reasons. As Microsoft itself begins to introduce Online Services, the Microsoft partner base is becoming far more MSP savvy. Also, some platform providers are trying to get cozy with Microsoft's customer base, just in case Microsoft launches its own MSP strategy.
MSP Price Wars?Generally speaking, MSPs continue to enjoy healthy margins. However, there is some concern in the market that platform providers and MSP themselves may launch price wars that will destroy margins.
This so-called "Race to the Bottom" is something MSPmentor will cover more closely this week. For some background, check out Do IT Smarter VP Todd McKendrick's thoughts. He posted comment number 6 on this blog entry: Profitable Managed Services: Six Ways to Acquire Customers.
For the record, MSPmentor does not expect managed services to become a commodity -- as long as MSPs regularly add more value to their platforms. For instance, MSPs that stick with basic storage, security and remote administration services may face some price pressure. But MSPs that introduce more sophisticated services will continue to thrive. (See our Managed Services Hype Cycle for more details.)