Microsoft, Symantec Jump on Managed Services Bandwagon

As Level Platforms prepares to host managed service provider (MSP) gatherings in 19 cities, two software giants -- Microsoft and Symantec -- will hitch a ride to more closely monitor and learn about the MSP sector. It's the latest sign that both Microsoft and Symantec are finally waking up to the next-generation channel. Here's why.

To truly understand how Microsoft and Symantec are evolving for MSPs you need to rewind the clock about 14 months. In November 2009, Symantec hosted its partner summit the same week as ConnectWise Partner Summit in Orlando, Fla. Symantec had no idea the MSP channel was gathered down the road at ConnectWise's conference. Plus, most Symantec channel team members had never heard of ConnectWise. In short, I believe Symantec was out of touch with the next-generation channel.

By 2010, Microsoft and Symantec were still making managed services mistakes -- but I noticed some signs of progress. Symantec CEO Enrique Salem predicted that only 15 percent of his company's long-term revenues would come from SaaS and cloud services. And new Microsoft Channel Chief Jon Roskill conceded that he was still getting up to speed on the managed services market.

Still, both Microsoft and Symantec began spending more time with MSPs toward late 2010. Microsoft's Cloud Channel Chief Gretchen O'Hara spoke at the N-able Partner Summit; a Microsoft Windows Intune team member quietly attended ConnectWise IT Nation; and Symantec Hosted Services has been signing up roughly 200 recurring revenue channel partners per quarter.

Partnering With Level Platforms

What's next? It sounds like Microsoft and Symantec will spend considerable time at the Level Platforms Managed Workplace 2011 road show. So far roughly 1,200 VARs and MSPs have signed up to attend the event series, according to Level Platforms VP of Partner Development and Marketing Dan Wensley. While Wensley mentioned a boatload of event sponsors, I think Microsoft and Symantec participation is particularly symbolic.

And more moves are coming. Keep an eye on Level Platforms and the Microsoft BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) cloud platform, which includes Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. I realize plenty of RMM (remote monitoring and management) platforms monitor Microsoft's cloud. But I get the feeling Level Platforms sees more opportunities with BPOS and its forthcoming cloud successor, Microsoft Office 365.

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