Autotask Community Live!: CentraStage Founders Talk RMM, Autotask

MSPmentor caught up with the founders of CentraStage (now Autotask Endpoint Management.) Will their feature roadmap be enough to persuade managed service providers to migrate from competitive RMM platforms? We spoke with these founders and with Autotask customers to find out. Here's the answer.

Jessica Davis

May 19, 2015

5 Min Read
Christian Nagele left AEM GM of Sales and Ian Van Reenen right AEM GM of Product Development
Christian Nagele (left), AEM GM of Sales and Ian Van Reenen (right), AEM GM of Product Development

Autotask executives have made it clear that they plan to create a unified platform experience for MSPs by making remote monitoring and management (RMM) a feature in its professional services automation platform (PSA). Acquiring CentraStage in September 2014 was the first step, and Autotask showed plans for a single dashboard during Autotask Community Live! this week in Miami.

But we wanted to know more. Who are the founders of this company and what does CentraStage (now known as Autotask Endpoint Management) bring to the table? And is what it brings enough to persuade managed service providers to migrate from competitive RMM providers to get the benefits of a unified platform? We spoke with Autotask customers and with the founders of CentraStage to get the answers. Here’s what we found.

Let’s start with CentraStage. Ian Van Reenen and Christian Nagele founded UK-based CentraStage in 2007 to fill a gap they saw in the market for monitoring and managing backup and disaster recovery devices. Looking to create something that would scale for the future, the founders created their platform in the cloud.

Pre-acquisition CentraStage

Fast forward to September 2014. CentraStage has about 800 customers using the platform (with very little overlap with Autotask PSA customers). Van Reenen and Nagele, now brothers-in-law to each other, were on a family vacation in Cornwall together during negotiations with Autotask and its owner Vista Equity Partners, last year, staying at a place that had no mobile phone coverage so that they had to drive to the top of the hill to talk to their prospective acquirers, the founders told me.

Fast forward to this week. It’s easy to see how excited Nagele and Van Reenen are about being part of Autotask. While they were independent before, they lacked the resources to realize their dream.  As part of Autotask they have an expanded development staff and sales force.  The demo room for Autotask Endpoint Management at Autotask Community Live! was packed with MSPs looking to see what the platform could do. And the founders told me that the Autotask deal has provided them with the resources they have needed to turn their platform into everything they have wanted it to be.

Autotask Endpoint Management: Features and Plans

And that means adding many of the check mark functions that MSPs expect in an RMM platform. Several were added in the platform update announced last week (and we covered them in this story). 

Among the functions Nagele and Van Reenen showed me was a ComStore, featuring applications such as Datto and Webroot,  that could be purchased and provisioned from the platform. The founders told me that their platform also still integrates with the ConnectWise PSA platform, a rival to Autotask. (Autotask executives told me they have no plans to end support for integration with competitive RMM platforms.)

Are Autotask MSPs moving to the new RMM?

So are Autotask MSPs jumping on the bandwagon with this new RMM capability and dumping their previous providers? I spoke to one MSP who migrated to CentraStage as soon as he heard about the acquisition. Robert Marsden of Addictive Technology Solutions is all in with Autotask.

“We were Australia’s first CentraStage customer,” he told me. “Immediately after the acquisition was announced I signed up.” Like many MSPs, Marsden has been through a few RMM providers, and he was using a few different tools before moving to Autotask Endpoint Management. “I’m now looking forward to the next stage.”

Wait and see

Other MSPs I spoke with were talking a wait-and-see approach to moving from their current RMM platform. They said there were features that Autotask Endpoint Management would need to add before it would make sense for them to migrate. One MSP told me that the thought of making the move from one RMM platform to another RMM platform yet again was a painful thought. Another told me platform is relatively immature, and there are quite a few checkmark features still missing.

Still, no one outright ruled it out. And I suspect that having an immature and developing platform could actually be a benefit to Autotask as it seeks to add the features that today’s MSPs need without being bogged down by legacy features they may not needed by all MSPs.

Simplicity means agility

Autotask’s CEO Mark Cattini and Product VP Pat Burns told me that the simple interface and feature set of Autotask Endpoint Management (AEM) meant that the platform was agile and extensible.

That said, they have created a product roadmap for AEM that is designed to meet what Autotask customers say they want in an RMM platform. Autotask plans to deliver the features that are deal-breakers for MSPs buying an RMM.

Version 2015.1 of Autotask Endpoint Management, announced last week, includes network monitoring, integrated antivirus (with Webroot, and in development with Kaspersky), integrated backup (with Datto now and others planned), Splashtop remote control, and Autotask integration improvements.

Second half of 2015 features

In the second half of 2015, AEM will get improvements to ESXi management, additional antivirus and BDR support, software management, patch management, more Autotask integration, monitoring improvements, job scheduling, dashboards and auditing.

Elevated priorities not yet assigned to a specific update include a user interface refresh, Agent Browser for OSx, user management, default monitors and policies, event log improvements, alert resolution, Security Center improvements, Performance Counter Trend alerts, and a public API.

Is a full-featured unified PSA/RMM platform better?

So that’s the list of features planned. I suspect Autotask PSA customers will be watching the feature set as it grows and matures and consider a move when the platform gets to where they need it to be. The questions for MSPs then would be this – is it better to have a unified platform for PSA and RMM? And I’ll ask readers that here, too. If there were a single platform that had all the features you wanted and needed in both a PSA and RMM platform, would it be worth it for you to move to that platform? Let us know in the comments what you think.

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About the Author(s)

Jessica Davis

Jessica Davis is the former Content Director for MSPmentor. She spent her career covering the intersection of business and technology.  She's also served as Editor in Chief at Channel Insider and held senior editorial roles at InfoWorld and Electronic News.

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