APM, Channel partner events, DevOps, IT management, MSP, VAR

ConnectWise IT Nation 2016: Five Things to Watch


Thousands of technology solutions providers  -- MSPs, VARs, etc. -- are set to attend IT Nation 2016, hosted by ConnectWise. Yes, ChannelE2E will be on hand to cover the conference. So what will we be tracking? Here are five key points to consider.

1. Vision vs. Innovation, Execution: In terms of product integration, ConnectWise was a first mover back around 2010 when the company extended beyond PSA (professional services automation) and invested in RMM (remote monitoring and management) and sales quoting/proposal software. By 2015, the company reorganized into a single business and also acquired remote control software. Still, a growing list of rivals (Autotask, Continuum, KaseyaSolarWinds MSP, among others) have either emulated the M&A strategy or innovated on some fronts in their own  right. Also, upstarts like Atera have built home-grown PSA-RMM from scratch.

What does all this mean? ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini has had the right overall vision. His moves over the past five-plus years have forced multiple rivals to ultimately respond, each in their own way. But now it comes down to execution and true innovation. And simplicity. It took ConnectWise a few years to reorganize all of the investments and acquired assets under one roof. ConnectWise will need to make a strong case that it's set to unlock the full power of those assets in a more intuitive, more deeply integrated, simplified way.

2. Branding, User Interfaces and Integration: My first point (above) sets up this point... Last I heard ConnectWise was preparing to rebrand its software assets in the following ways...

  • ConnectWise PSA will become ConnectWise Manage
  • ConnectWise LabTech will become ConnectWise Automate
  • ConnectWise Quosal will become ConnectWise Sell
  • ConnectWise ScreenConnect will become ConnectWise Control

Note: The rebranding apparently became official in recent days, according to ConnectWise's website.

But this involves more than product name changes. The overall user experience in each of the products is set to evolve -- gradually. Bellini says each type of specialized user deserves his or her own specialized cockpit. The first step arrived in August, when ConnectWise delivered ScreenConnect 6.0 with some long-term clues on GUI direction. Watch for more user interface demos at the conference. And then, one by one, those interface tweaks will gradually surface in ConnectWise's core products over the next year or more, I suspect.

There's also a great industry debate involving "integration" vs. "unification." Integration, the pundits say, involves simply connecting one product to another (i.e,, PSA connections to RMM and vice versa. Unification, in contrast, allegedly means users gain a truly unified experience as code bases nearly become one -- and data stores certainly become one. Just how far down the road is ConnectWise heading with all this? We're watching.

3. Cloud Management Services: ConnectWise CloudConsole debuted at last year's conference. It started off as an Office 365 management tool. But ConnectWise added Azure management capabilities in mid-2016. Longer term, it's safe to expect CloudConsole to support Amazon Web Services and perhaps even Google Cloud Platform (if enough partners ask for the latter).

But here's the thing: I believe most of the CloudConsole features currently involve procurement and billing management. The big question: Can ConnectWise go really deep into cloud monitoring and workload management. Some higher-end MSPs, for instance, now assist customers with day-to-day DevOps -- meaning that the MSPs actually monitor new software deliveries onto AWS, Azure, etc. Emerging companies like AppDynamics, DataDog and New Relic are making major moves in these areas -- both at the cloud infrastructure level and the application level. This is not your typical RMM conversation for PCs and Servers. The question is: Have enough MSPs shifted to cloud workload monitoring and APM to attract ConnectWise's attention.

4. Beyond the Core: Many IT Nation attendees have core platforms like PSA, RMM, BDR (backup and disaster recovery) and security in place. But where else are we heading in terms of "must have" integrations and capabilities? Some argue that network-level monitoring (example: Auvik Networks) is gaining momentum. Others point to documentation (example: IT Glue), password management (example: PassPortal), performance monitoring (LogicMonitor), plus and analytics and data analysis (example: BrightGauge). We'll be looking for more "beyond the core" examples next week.

5. Mergers, Acquisitions: Yes, IT Nation triggers many back-room discussions about mergers and acquisitions. Some deals are negotiated at the conference -- including last year's Internet & Telephone buyout of Jenaly Technology Group. More deals are surely coming. Overall, many MSPs face a major valuation gap in terms of (A) perceived owner value vs. (B) what a buyer is actually willing to pay for that business. For instance, two MSPs each with $5 million in annual revenues can have wildly different valuations based on their profit models. Valuations also could face pressure since pure demographics suggest more and more sellers will be in the market.

We'll poke around for more anecdotes during the conference. And you can track all VAR, MSP and CSP buyouts by visiting the ChannelE2E Milestones section.

6. Bonus - Your Thoughts: What trends or themes did we overlook? What would you like us to track down at the conference? Feel free to email me your thoughts and requests ([email protected]).

Track all of our IT Nation coverage here.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.