CentraStage: Managed Services Meets Amazon Web Services

CentraStage: Managed Services Meets Amazon Web Services

CentraStage has successfully shifted its managed services software platform into the Amazon Web Services cloud. Next up: A CentraStage freemium software initiative that may allow small MSPs to engage more small business customers. CentraStage CEO Christian Nagele offered MSPmentor a glimpse at the strategy to day.

Based in Europe, CentraStage has aggressively expanded its managed services software footprint into the U.S. market over the past year. Kaseya veteran Sean O'Connell invested in CentraStage last year, and the company has since grown its headcount to about 30 people, up from about 12 in late 2010 or early 2011.

"Just because we're small doesn't mean we're limited in our ambition," said Nagele. "We had a massive year in 2011. We completed that small fundraiser in March 2011 and it was a crazy nine months after that."

Among the key inflection points: "We moved into the Amazon cloud to leverage a single, scalable global infrastructure," said Nagele. "It’s astonishing what those boys [Amazon] can deliver for us on efficiency and economies of scale. We moved in September and it wasn't without incident. But we've grown seven-fold in terms of the devices we manage in Amazon's cloud"

One one particular day, CentraStage moved 17,000 devices onto its managed services platform in Amazon's cloud. Moreover, CentraStage's largest customer -- a school system in Europe -- now depends on CentraStage to manage 70,000 devices via Amazon. The total count for that customer will reach 250,000 devices, Nagele added.

"I don’t think there’s that many platforms where you could bring on a customer with 50,000 devices in a day," added Nagele. "That’s where Amazon comes in. We’re designed for the cloud from day one."

Freemium Managed Services

So what's next? Instead of chasing known MSPs that already run RMM software, CentraStage wants to make sure it's appealing to VARs and resellers that are looking to break into managed services.

"In essence we see a freemium opportunity to support the little guys," said Nagele. "The quasi-MSPs that are striving to make the transition to recurring revenues and managed services. Maybe they can't fully launch into an RMM solution."

That's why CentraStage is preparing a 250-node freemium offer. The freemium cloud service will give aspiring MSPs visibility into a customer environment without forcing the MSP to swallow the cost or pass on the cost to end-customers. The reason: The 250 nodes are free for various basic services, plus 10 free hours of remote control per month. If the MSP jumps to CentraStage's full-blown paid version, it's simply a right-click upgrade, said Nagele.

Also on the radar: CentraStage has developed MacOS X support and is making a big push into mobile device management. "We'll offer one back-end infrastructure for all those operating systems," said Nagele. Oh, and some sort of anti-virus deal with CentraStage is brewing, MSPmentor believes.

Remaining Challenges

CentraStage's progress sounds promising. But the company faces deeply entrenched competition, particularly in the North American market. CentraStage now has four employees on U.S. soil but the competition -- based in Canada and the U.S. itself -- looms around every corner.

N-able, for one, also has a freemium software strategy -- though it blends on-premise and cloud options while CentraStage is pure cloud, running in Amazon.

CentraStage also needs to build out its software partner ecosystem. The Amazon deployment and hiring priorities consumed much of 2011. Now, CentraStage is focused on strengthening an existing relationship with Autotask while formalizing relationships with a more extensive list of PSA and managed services-oriented software companies.

Still, for a company that nobody knew about a year or two ago, CentraStage seems to be making rapid progress. I can't think of many MSP-oriented software and cloudn companies that have won a 250,000+ device management deal so early in its history.
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