I realize managed services is a business model. And the MSP market is far more than PSA, RMM and BDR software. Still, managed services providers (MSPs) and their software partners often are joined at the hip, working together to automate IT management and customer support. So where is the managed services software industry heading next? My educated guesses are below...
... but please note: The information below is based on some educated guesses and some hunches. My predictions for certain vendors do not reflect anything that the vendors themselves have told me.
1. BDR Extends to High Availability: Right now, many backup companies are repositioning as cloud-centric disaster recovery specialists. The BDR (backup and disaster recovery) market is growing but filled with rivals. And increasingly, the key players focus on speed to recovery or a near-instant failover into the cloud.
But during the recent Cisco Velocity Partner Conference in Las Vegas, an MSPmentor 100 executive told me he is thinking less about traditional backup and talking far more with customers about high availability services.
The idea: Sure, discuss a full backup and recovery plan with your customers. But as part of that conversation: Zero in on the one or two business applications that simply cannot go down. Once you identify that app, how can you design a cloud-centric system -- across at least two geographically dispersed regions -- that offers redundancy and high availability?
2. RMM Evolution: The MSP industry grew up with remote management tools for laptops, PCs and servers. Now, the smartest MSPs have extended int0 software-oriented managed services -- such as managed database services. And upstarts like Boundary -- led by former Nimsoft CEO Gary Read -- are pushing into real-time application and software monitoring.
Sure, you can still monitor applications like Exchange and SharePoint. But the next round of monitoring apparently will involve applications built on Hadoop, Cassandra, Erlang, PHP, Python and Ruby.
The common thread for all monitoring platforms going forward: Everyone will offer a cloud-based version (nearly true today), and most of the new platforms will be purely cloud-based.
3. PSA Becomes Total Business Management: From your people to your marketing, sales, finances and customer management, information will increasingly flow into a single, centralized system.
Autotask, for one, will increasingly try to position itself as a channel-oriented version of SalesForce.com and NetSuite. At some point, Autotask CEO Mark Cattini will reach a key inflection point: He'll need to decide whether to launch a full-blown cloud ISV strategy, similar to Salesforce's Force.com effort. (Reminder: That's just a hunch rather than any official information from Autotask.)
Meanwhile, ConnectWise will synchronize its release schedules across its core business management software (ConnectWise), LabTech Software (remote monitoring and management) and Quosal (quoting and sales proposal software).
Most folks think the ConnectWise portfolio is mostly an on-premises play. But I believe 80 percent of new ConnectWise sales are in the cloud. Plus, LabTech recently launched a cloud version, and Quosal has components hosted in Microsoft Windows Azure. Much in the way that Microsoft now bundles all of its business applications as the Office 365 cloud platform, ConnectWise will ultimately do the same with its applications (at least in my opinion).
Who Will Emerge?Numerous companies are jockeying for position as the potential scenarios above begin to play out. N-able Technologies took a private equity investment last year. Summit Partners invested in Continuum (the former Zenith RMM). Quest Software has pushed PacketTrap MSP into the neighboring PSA market. Also, GFI Software has made numerous acquisitions. And big tech companies -- Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Symantec, to name a few -- are dabbling in the MSP market.
Ironically, more will become less. The market will consolidate. And MSPs, at some point, may finally get that single, cloud-based dashboard for business and technology management. That's likely five years away... Or is it?