ConnectWise, CharTec: Something's Cooking

Sources say something is cooking between ConnectWise and CharTec -- which specializes in Hardware as a Service. What could be brewing? At first glance, I don't know much. At all. (Surprised?) But take a closer look and you might start to see the bigger picture. It involves PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) software companies eventually cooperating and competing in the cloud. Here's why.

First, I need to rewind to September 2009 to set the stage for this blog.

At the time, ConnectWise issued a press release stating that the company was interested in potential acquisitions and financial relationships.

ConnectWise took some heat for a surprise mention of rival Autotask in the press release. But anyone who focused too much on the ConnectWise-Autotask debate missed the bigger picture: ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini was basically writing an open letter to the MSP industry, stating that interested parties should reach out to ConnectWise about potential business engagements.

Apparently, the open letter worked. I get the sense that ConnectWise is working on multiple strategic relationships for 2010. I'm not referring to generic marketing and API (application programming interface) relationships. Nor am I referring to outright acquisitions. Instead, I suspect ConnectWise is working on a creative middle ground with a range of software and industry partners.

Step 1: ConnectWise and CharTec

Now, back to the alleged relationship at hand: ConnectWise and CharTec.

ConnectWise competes in professional services automation (PSA) software. CharTec specializes in Hardware as a Service (HaaS). CharTec CEO Alex Rogers spent considerable time down at ConnectWise Partner Summit 2009 (Nov. 4-6). If you've never met Rogers, here's a quick video introduction to his energy and HaaS expertise:

Meanwhile, ConnectWise's Bellini has increasingly mentioned Hardware as a Service during recent webcasts and conferences. In fact, he briefly mentioned HaaS during his ConnectWise Partner Summit keynote. It wasn't a coincidence.

Fast forward to the present, and I'm starting to hear some chatter. I admit, all I've got from my sources so far is that something is cooking with CharTec and ConnectWise -- the relationship is going to get much bigger for 2010.

But how much bigger?

Step 2: HaaS Enters the Cloud?

Now, time for my own speculation.

It starts in the HaaS market and leaps into the cloud. Several MSPs -- including masterIT -- already profit from HaaS. And a range of consulting firms and financial advisors (from CharTec to MSP On Demand to Stu Lustman) assist solutions providers with their HaaS efforts.

But overall, the HaaS market remains in its infancy because so few VARs understand how to make the leap from leasing to true HaaS engagements. The recent global financial crisis and credit crunch didn't help matters.

Still, ConnectWise's Bellini has made it clear: He sees HaaS converging with cloud computing. And CharTec's Rogers is a dynamic HaaS evangelist. This is going to get interesting, folks.

During ConnectWise Partner Summit, Bellini told MSPmentor he's aiming to build a channel-friendly cloud where everything -- including traditional desktop hardware -- gets virtualized. I suspect that means ConnectWise's cloud strategy will involve a HaaS relationship.

Also at the summit, we captured some of Bellini's cloud perspectives in this video:

Step 3: PSA vs. RMM  Companies In the Cloud?

Today, I'm sort of stuck in a waiting game. Even as I dig for more potential news on the ConnectWise-CharTec front, I'm trying to develop a bigger-picture blog entry.

It goes something like this...

In early 2010, we will potentially see dramatic changes to the MSP software landscape. Consider the following variables:
  • UPDATE (Dec. 3, 9:24 p.m. Eastern): PacketTrap Networks acquired, MSPmentor has learned.
  • In addition to potential business and financial relationships, ConnectWise is preparing to launch ConnectWise 2010 -- a new version of the company's flagship software.
  • Level Platforms and N-able both are preparing major platform updates.
  • Autotask continues to expand its installed base in the pure SaaS market.
  • Zenith Infotech is polishing its cloud efforts.
  • And Kaseya is nearing the launch of its SaaS and cloud platform.
A key point in all this: During the Kaseya Connect user conference back in May 2009, Kaseya CEO Gerald Blackie told me Kaseya would offer some limited PSA (professional services automation) capabilities with its SaaS-based system.

At the time, I didn't do much with that little item because I didn't want to "create" the perception that a showdown between PSA and RMM companies could emerge in the cloud. All I had was a statement from Blackie that I needed to noodle on a bit more.

Step 4: Coopetition

Still, I couldn't let go of this nagging hunch that Kaseya and the established PSA industry would wind up competing on some fronts in the cloud.

In this case, we've got on-the-record statements from Kaseya's top executive from May 2009 stating that the company plans to make some limited but significant PSA moves in the cloud. By September 2009, ConnectWise was on the record stating they were open to making some industry investments.

By Q1 2010, we should see just how far Kaseya is going with PSA and just how far ConnectWise is going with deeper potential relationships with a range of partners. One such relationship -- involving ConnectWise and CharTec -- sounds very real to me.

Either way, I believe we're heading for "coopetition" (that is, cooperation and competition) between PSA and RMM providers in the cloud.

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