Top 6 Managed Services Trends of 1Q 2008

It was a busy first quarter for the new MSPmentor -- and the managed services market as a whole. Overall, we posted more than 150 pieces of content on our Web site in Q1, ranging from news to white papers to the MSPmentor 100.

But what were the hottest managed services topics during the first quarter? Here are six key pieces of info that caught our attention. Feel free to weigh in with your own observations.

1. Boom among the Gloom: Despite the weak economy, MSP platform providers remain upbeat. MSPmentor is not suggesting that the managed services market is immune to an economic slowdown. If the IT market does weaken significantly, it will surely impact everyone.

But so far, the managed services market is holding up far better than most IT sectors, according to anecdotal thoughts from the executives representing Nimsoft, Autotask, N-able and other platform providers.

2. Software as a Service: Yes, SaaS continues to converge with managed services. Level Platforms CEO Peter Sandiford examined the trend in a Q1 blog entry. And many service providers began experimenting with on-demand software like Microsoft Dynamics.

MSPs will need to move up the value chain and master SaaS, because all the big software vendors plan to offer some form of SaaS directly to customers. Dell, in fact, reminded MSPs that it plans to test managed services directly with some customers.

3. Symantec's Silence: The company in February finally launched its long-awaited Symantec Protection Network (SPN), an on-demand platform for storage (initially) and security (eventually).

Given Symantec's size and the popularity of storage/security as a managed service, we expected the company to make a big splash with MSPs. But instead, we've heard very little from Symantec and its initial MSP partners.

4. Microsoft - Friend or Foe?: Microsoft updated its software-as-a-service strategy on March 3. But many partners were left scratching their heads as they tried to figure out where Microsoft would -- and wouldn't -- play in the host software market.

Frankly, we think MSPs will have no choice but to compete with Microsoft on some fronts, as more small businesses try to purchase hosted software directly from Microsoft.

Still not sure about Microsoft's strategy? Mary Jo Foley's All About Microsoft blog has this entry to help guide you.

5. Talent and Training: Apparently, MSPs continue to struggle to find talent. And they want clearer information about training. Round tables, executive summits and Web seminars across the industry continued to generate strong chatter.

And industry organizations like MSPAllianceMSP University and MSP Partners continued to attract VARs and MSPs looking for easy answers to their business questions.

6. Managed Services Goes Global: Early forays into Australia seem to be going well. And the European is market is established.

Our MSPmentor 100 report, released January 28, highlights many of the most successful MSPs in multiple countries -- proving that we truly are working in a global market. Also, MSPmentor received visits from readers in 122 countries and territories in the first quarter.

The top 5 were the US, Canada, UK, India and Australia -- followed by Netherlands, Germany, France, Ireland and New Zealand.

Of course, I've skipped numerous hot stories and trends. But I did so on purpose because I'd like to hear about the key trends you spotted in 1Q. Thoughts? I'm all ears.

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