Live Blog: ConnectWise IT Nation 2012 Day One

IT Nation 2012, the annual MSP and VAR partner conference hosted by ConnectWise, has kicked off in Orlando, Fla. Among today's highlights: Level Platforms' Next Level conference. But that's not all. Here's a live blog, including my first interviews of the day with Continuum, Intel, Intronis, LabTech Software, VAR Staffing and more. Here's the update.

1. Eric Townsend, Intel: I'm seated with him right now. He's the guy behind vPro enablement for MSPs. Lots of talk about Intel-McAfee synergies going forward. Keep an eye on Small Business Advantage, especially for VARs. It's a system that PC makers are using to help VARs optimize PCs for customers. Once customers are using Small Business Advantage, there's a natural path for VARs and MSPs to introduce more managed services into the customer base. Twitter handles: @EricDTownsend, @IntelMSP.

2. Cloud Backup for VMware: The new Intronis fall 2012 release includes VMware support for full image backup both locally and in the cloud, according to Matt Kowalski, senior product manager. Also new from the company: USN Journal capabilities -- leveraging technology from Microsoft -- allows for scanning in roughly one-tenth to one-hundredth of the time as normal. Intronis is also reiterating its support of ConnectWise's APIs.

Also with me for the meeting: Channel Chief Ted Roller and VP of Marketing Carol Ferrari. Ferrari remains upbeat about Intronis' alignment with MSPs. And Roller sees MSPs focusing on total data protection conversations. Among the potential thrusts for 2013: Strategically, Intronis will expand internationally, Ferrari hinted.

4. Staffing Needs: VAR Staffing is at the conference, assigning IT service providers with their staffing needs. The VAR Staffing effort started about two years ago as a division of Apollo Staffing. The effort includes permanent search and contract staffing. And fees are only charged if VAR Staffing finds the right candidate and fills the position.

There's a run on talent -- perhaps the biggest since the dot-com boom of 1999 or so, according to Principal Mark Bier and Director of Channel Development Todd Billiar. The big demand involves data center (security, virtualization, convergence) and mobile. They are focused on everything from help desk experts all the way to executive management.

The hot spots for hiring include Chicago, Boston/New England, San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area and Dallas and Houston. If you're looking for the A-players who can sell, design and implement the solutions, they claim, it's time to get out in the market.

5. LabTech CEO Matt Nachtrab: On the Mobile Device Management front, MSPs are just now starting to receive customer MDM requests, said CEO Matt Nachtrab. He's testing a range of mobile devices that he's also purchased, including a MacBook and a Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows RT. Use the new interface for two minutes and you'll understand the approach, said Nachtrab. The concept of a phone, desktop and tablet having the same approach on software and data management is compelling, he said.

On the business front, Nachtrab concedes LabTech has had some growing pains. Sure, sales are good. But the marketplace has forced the company to mature rapidly while focusing on quality. "We're not just chasing growth; I think we're now ahead of it and optimizing for it," said Nachtrab. "We wrangled in support; it's going great but I won't say it's perfect yet."

LabTech has also re-written its ConnectWise interface from the ground up. The previous offering was difficult to get installed and up-and-running. The update has been released to QA, and targeting December 5 for potential launch. But the company won't rush beta -- he wasn't to make sure everything is ready to go for general availability. "The level of efficiency MSPs can achieve with both tools is accelerating," said Nachtrab.

Watch for tighter integrations between the ConnectWise service boards. Each board can have different status sets and workflows, and now LabTech information can be routed more efficiently over to ConnectWise. The bigger strategy: Quote by employee in Quosal, service and bill in ConnectWise, and discover and inventory in LabTech.

On Premise, in the Cloud -- and a Patent?

LabTech also is available both on premise or in the Amazon Web Services cloud. The push into the cloud is going well and has been attracting MSPs that want roughly 25 to 200 agents.

Side note: LabTech has filed to earn a patent that involves managing virtualized cloud assets. Stay tuned on that one.

For 2013, LabTech will look to push beyond North America, Europe and Australia. Watch for "the year of the channel" with distribution relationships in international markets.

On the executive team front, Nachtrab said all the key seats are filled. Tony Thomas, head of product management, is one of the key names mentioned. "He has revolutionized the way we develop and bring software to market," he said.

6. The MSP Investor: Sam Attias, managing partner at Technology Capital Investors, just sat down with me. He's an investor in OS33, a cloud platform that transforms VARs and MSPs into CSPs. More details in minutes. Everything he's focused on involves scaling OS33, which is targeting MSPs that have $2 million to $5 million in annual recurring revenues -- and the MSPs will enjoy regional exclusivity if they hit certain business milestones.

Attias increasingly sees OS33 as a cloud aggregator platform. Attias is calling on IT service providers to stop talking about solutions providers and more about aggregation services.

7. Continuum Does Mobile Device Management: The RMM and NOC company has partnered up to offer an integrated MDM. "Given the liability, security and reliability issues, we think people are playing with fire with low-end MDM," said CEO Michael George. After careful evaluation, Continuum instead decided to offer up MaaS360, marketed under the Continuum brand, said VP Steve Ricketts.

A key trend to watch: The shift to per-user pricing and also a big focus on MSPs managing tablets in the health care market.

Another big theme in the meeting: Total cost of ownership and integration. Continuum believes its relationships with LogMeIn and many other companies ensures a cost and quality advantage to its MSPs.

Longer term, George still sees a potential IPO down the road.

Additional Interviews Coming Today In This Blog:

  • Venture capitalist and angel investor who targets the MSP and cloud services markets.
  • The CEO of a major IT management software company serving MSPs.
Coming Soon: More interviews roughly one per hour. Keep checking in regularly.
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