IT management

Is There an End-to-End MSP Software Platform?

The MSP industry, once the domain of standalone RMM and PSA software, continues to evolve toward end-to-end services spanning the cloud and on-premises capabilities. The latest example involves Continuum Managed Services (remote monitoring and management) partnering up with Vorex, an upstart in the PSA (professional services automation) market.

The big big questions:

  • Based on a mix of mergers, acquisitions, APIs and alliances, are there now end-to-end software platforms for MSPs?
  • What does history tell us about how we got here -- and where we may be heading?

The History

Perhaps the biggest event in the history of MSP-centric software involves two moves that didn't happen.

  1. Nearly a decade ago or so, there were rumors about ConnectWise (purely PSA at the time) potentially discussing a merger with Kaseya (purely RMM at the time).
  2. Around the same time, N-able (independent at the time) was mulling a push beyond RMM -- potentially leveraging SugarCRM to build a PSA system, sources have long told me.

The potential ConnectWise-Kaseya deal never moved beyond the rumor stage. And the N-able push into PSA via SugarCRM didn't occur. Still, there were undercurrents in the market through 2008 or 2009 or so. Just about everyone was wondering when would the PSA and RMM models come together -- much in the way that Word and Excel came together into a suite?

Enter ConnectWise Capital

The answer finally started to emerge around 2010. Kaseya kept threatening to write its own PSA system for its RMM platform. Instead of waiting for that potential shoe to drop, ConnectWise launched a venture capital arm and invested in LabTech Software -- an unknown RMM player at the time.

ConnectWise vowed to keep its APIs open to support third-party RMM offerings. But the writing was also on the wall. A ConnectWise-LabTech suite would emerge at some point...

Reread those previous two paragraphs. In some circles, ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini was criticized for harming PSA-RMM industry harmony. But history shows he was carefully studying potential rival moves, and anticipating the unavoidable M&A or R&D rounds that ultimately arrive in all software industries.

The Dance Accelerates

Rivals had a range of reactions. Among the evolutions in recent years:

  • Autotask initially vowed to focus on PSA and balked at an RMM buy, only to adjust course and acquire CentraStage.
  • AVG Technologies pushed beyond its cloud and security offerings and acquired Level Platforms for RMM capabilities.
  • Continuum Managed Services strengthened its RMM and NOC offerings, inked a BDR relationship with Datto, but more recently acquired a BDR company of its own.
  • Kaseya was sold to a private equity firm, which acquired a range of tools to extend and expand the core Kaseya platform.
  • LogicNow (formerly GFI) was born from the HoundDog acquisition and pushed in a range of directions -- security, storage, and now even big data.
  • PacketTrap pushed beyond RMM into PSA, got acquired by Dell -- and then was shut down when the hardware giant began its shift from public to private markets. The PSA piece, I think, lives on as an independent company called BlueFolder.
  • SolarWinds acquired N-able and Capzure technology. N-able's RMM capabilities are essentially pushing toward PSA -- leveraging Capzure's code rebranded as N-able MSP Manager.
  • Tigerpaw Software has remained focused on its PSA offerings while pursuing partnerships across the board.
  • A range of companies have either partnered or purchased their way into the BDR, remote control, security and storage markets.
  • What did I miss? Surely, I left out a range of examples...

The net result, current day: Most MSP platforms are actually moving toward business management platforms -- with a lengthy list of features and functions that automate IT and business management. But a new wave of cloud-based application management and monitoring tools -- think AppDynamics, NewRelic and more -- has emerged.

Is There An End-to-End MSP Software Platform?

Now, back to my opening question. Is it possible for MSPs to standardize on a single platform to run their entire business? And can we ever get to a true single pane of glass?

Instead of taking a stab at those questions, I'll leave it for readers to weigh in. And I expect plenty of additional views to emerge in the next few weeks during the Continuum Navigate and ConnectWise IT Nation conferences.

And in the meantime, here's another piece of the cliffhanger... Features and functions won't decide the long-term value of MSP software and cloud tools. Instead, the value will be in the data -- and the business insights they offer to MSPs.

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.