Where are managed services providers (MSPs) heading next? I think I found a few answers at the Parallels Summit in Miami this week. Admittedly, I suspect most MSPs and VARs aren't fully familiar with this SaaS- and cloud-centric conference. Too bad. First movers from the original managed services wave -- MSPs like Pointivity -- are here trying to catch the next wave. As are MSP-centric team members from Cisco Systems and Google. Here's what you missed.
Frankly, the Parallels Summit resembles many of the MSP-oriented conferences that MSPmentor readers frequently attend. But this event is all cloud, all the time. There are roughly 1,100 people here -- mostly web hosts looking to automate SaaS and cloud projects. As the conference unfolded, it was easy to spot groups of MSPs brainstorming together.
Some of the themes here were very familiar...
- Roughly a dozen online backup companies are here pitching white label partner programs to VARs, MSPs and cloud integrators.
- Intermedia, the big hosted Exchange specialist, partnered up with Unison Technologies to launch a hosted unified communication service that MSPs and VARs can brand as their own. At one point, Unison Chief Marketing Officer Rurik Bradbury warned attendees "don't surrender to Microsoft Online" and Microsoft BPOS. Colorful stuff.
- Google reached out to service providers, and Google Apps Channel Manager Jeff Ragusa reinforced the Google Apps reseller program, which apparently has attracted 1,000 partners.
- Cisco Systems was here researching where big service providers can play in the cloud market. One key theme echoed over and over again: Service level guarantees for the pipes that deliver SaaS applications.
- Quest Software, which recently Pacquired PacketTrap -- the SaaS based tool for MSPs -- was here pitching vWorkspace, a desktop virtualization push. By the way, the Quest-PacketTrap combo reminds me of today's Citrix Online-Paglo news, which involves Citrix GoToManage for MSPs.
- Pointivity and ChannelCloud were hear doing some research. I don't have firm details, but my best guess is ChannelCloud is nearing launch. The core goal: Helping MSPs and VARs to accelerate their cloud moves. I know that's pretty vague. But I think we'll get a clearer picture really soon.
And yes, some advice and answers emerged. Most of the attendees here leverage Parallels' automation software to help speed SaaS application deployments. And even if you're not ready to build your own SaaS applications, this conference was packed with white-label cloud services for MSPs and VARs.
I wonder: Will those services deliver enough profit to warrant attention from the channel? We'll be watching.