APM, Channel technologies, CSPs, Distributed Workforce, MSP, Virtualization

Itopia: Solving the Desktop as a Service Math Problem?

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Scott Markley
Jonathan Lieberman

Let's face it: The limiting factor for Desktop as a Service (DaaS) and Workspace as a Service (WaaS) no longer involves technology. Instead, it's a math problem that often involves lousy margins for channel partners. Itopia claims to have solved that problem.

Indeed, Itopia CEO Jonathan Lieberman and Senior VP of Sales Scott Markley explained the company journey, technology and financial math to me today.

First, a little background. DaaS and its modern-day WaaS cousin have overcome a range of technical hurdles in recent years. In fact, I think DaaS has reached the 3.0 stage -- becoming reliable, valuable WaaS. But very often, hosted desktops and on-demand workspaces suffer from financial problems. Simply put, there are too many layers of expensive software -- operating systems, virtualization, remote access software, yada, yada, yada -- that often makes it impossible for MSPs and VARs to make a decent living off DaaS and WaaS.

Specialized WaaS Code

Itopia claims to solve the problem with home-grown software built atop independenceIT's technology. While it's not an open source business, it does remind me a bit of the Linux model -- where Linux is the kernel, and Red Hat develops fantastic enhancements atop that kernel. Similarly, Itopia claims independenceIT's software is a small piece of the story deep within the core of its platform, with major Itopia enhancements -- specifically for service providers -- built atop that kernel. (PS: I'm not suggesting independenceIT would describe the model that way, BTW. I use the analogy to keep things simple in my rather limited brain.)

Itopia's team has worked in and around the hosted VoIP, unified communications, hosted PBX and SaaS markets for more than a decade. CEO Jonathan Lieberman co-founded the company after navigating many of those sectors. And Senior VP of Sales Scott Markley is an independenceIT veteran.

During our call today, Lieberman and Markley describe some of the technical hurdles DaaS has faced over the past decade. Then, we navigated all the cost issues involving operating systems, virtualization systems, service provider licensing SKUs and more. The Itopia answer: Take independenceIT's core code -- and then write additional code that was holistic in nature... meaning that it could be used by service providers of all sizes.

The Itopia platform debuted in early 2015. It started as a SaaS platform for VARs and MSPs to plug into. More recently, Itopia has decoupled the platform from its data center -- allow service providers and big cloud providers to run the code on their own. Moreover, the software includes discovery features -- allowing service providers to pinpoint all of the customer applications that will ultimately move to a WaaS model. "Our vision is to empower service providers wherever they want or need to go," says Lieberman.

Itopia-independenceIT Alignment Risks?

But what if independenceIT takes the core code -- the kernel, in my simplified definition -- in a direction that doesn't align with Itopia's vision? "We don't see that as a risk factor," says Markley. "We have 20 full-time software developers on the platform right now. We feel really comfortable with our capabilities and roadmap for the future and what the market needs."

So far, Itopia sounds like it's catching on with partners -- though I don't know exact deployment figures, nor do I know how the company is performing financially. Deployments are "in the thousands" of seats, says Lieberman. "The platform is growing and we're getting real adoption in the market."

And what about the math problem -- the one where WaaS is so expensive to deploy and operate that partners don't make much money? "Our service providers can realize at least 50 percent gross margins," says Lieberman. "And possibly more. I think we've solved the math problem."

That sounds promising, though plenty of vendors are chasing the DaaS market. Long live competition. And hopefully, here comes math that works a bit better for profit-hungry channel partners.

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.