Microsoft 365 Lighthouse Signals Redmond's Pending Big RMM Play

The tool will provide multitenant RMM capability for Microsoft 365.

Jeffrey Schwartz

October 7, 2020

5 Min Read
Microsoft 365 Lighthouse Signals Redmond's Pending Big RMM Play

The new Microsoft 365 Lighthouse is a managed services delivery platform the company will preview to partners starting next year.

Microsoft revealed its planned IT service delivery offering during last month’s Ignite virtual conference for IT pros and developers. The company plans to release the first preview of Microsoft 365 Lighthouse early next year. It is primarily intended for MSPs who manage small and medium-size businesses that use Microsoft 365.

The interface provides a multitenant management control plane, letting MSPs remotely manage each customer’s Microsoft 365 instance. It is oriented toward MSPs that have many small and medium-size business customers. Microsoft 365 Lighthouse builds off last year’s introduction of Azure Lighthouse, which lets partners manage their customers’ Azure instances.

MSPs using Microsoft 365 Lighthouse will be able to provide standardized device monitoring, management and compliance for their SMB customers.


Microsoft’s Vivek Kumar

“Microsoft 365 Lighthouse will help you reduce your operational overhead by enabling you to onboard, monitor and manage your Microsoft 365 customers from one place,” according to the announcement posted by Vivek Kumar, a Microsoft senior product marketing manager.

Kumar added that Microsoft 365 Lighthouse is “a new experience that makes it easier for IT partners to deliver managed services at scale to small and medium-sized customers. You will be able to drive higher levels of standardization, automation and auditing in how you work with customers.”

Managing Multiple Tenants

Microsoft 365 Lighthouse will allow MSP support engineers to review all of their SMB customers in one pane. The software builds on the functionality of Microsoft Intune and Windows Auto Pilot. It also includes threat management, allowing support engineers to monitor the status of Microsoft Defender AV across all Windows 10 clients under management. Furthermore, it automates user access management, providing a unified list of all users MSPs manage across their customer bases.

Kumar said this will make it easier to reset passwords, assign licenses and delegate access to mailboxes and OneDrive. Also, MSPs’ technicians can change group memberships without having to log in and log out of individual customer tenants. It will also provide alerts of violations or other threats detected.

Chris Boyd, a Microsoft program manager, said many MSPs lack tools to manage multitenant SMB environments.

“Through a number of conversations with our partner community, we’ve realized there’s an opportunity to really help their technicians in their day-to-day activities,” Boyd said during a Microsoft Ignite session. “These are the folks that are helping the SMBs work through issues like password resets or setting up a team site around a new big collaborative initiative. They’re doing this while also remotely monitoring and managing the health and security of all the devices and services across the SMBs that they take care of. We really feel there’s an opportunity to provide them a solution that works cross tenant to discover and resolve issues, and also help them …

… maintain standards and to secure the environments in a consistent way.”

Hope Rickerd, a support engineer at Palmetto Technology Group, is among the first MSPs participating in the private preview. Speaking during the Ignite session, Rickerd said Palmetto’s engineers have many routine tasks that they must complete for different customers.


Palmetto Technology Group’s Hope Rickerd

“We have to log in to so many different tenants across the day to just get the work done,” she said. “With a comprehensive tool that allows us to see into every tenant at one time, we’re going to be cutting out all that front-end time of logging in. And we’re going to be able to automate those tasks.”

Plotting to Build More RMM Functions

Kumar also noted that Microsoft will add new capabilities in the future.

Anurag Agrawal, founder and chief analyst at Techaisle, said Microsoft 365 Lighthouse is suited for MSPs who manage Microsoft solutions.


Techaisle’s Anurag Agrawal

“The offering is currently lightweight with a concentration on device compliance, threat protection – predominantly antivirus – M365 user license management, and some insights into usage,” Agrawal said. “It is a well-thought-out plot from Microsoft to build a heavyweight platform for MSPs, ultimately. InTune, Azure Lighthouse and M365 Lighthouse are teasers.”

Agrawal said it would not surprise him if PC makers add Lighthouse to build on their managed services for SMBs. Microsoft 365 Lighthouse will also appeal to MSPs that don’t have their own remote management and monitoring (RMM) systems.

“It is a no-brainer for the MSPs who currently do not use any RMM platform, as long as they have visibility into the billing and can create tickets and invoices for T&M professional services work,” he said.

The “plot” Argrawal alluded to is that Microsoft is signaling it will make a bigger play into RMM.

“The MSP market is essential for Microsoft, and globally it has the highest number of any supplier,” he said. “Even some of the largest Microsoft GSIs will begin using M365 Lighthouse to manage their end-customers’ devices and M365 licensing. We are already seeing Lenovo [and] Dell, using InTune and AutoPilot within their managed services offerings. Microsoft is also pushing to incorporate TPM 2.0 into PCs. In the future, all of these will combine into a big-play platform.”

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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