Live Blog: ConnectWise Automation Nation, LabTech RMM Strategy

After blogging live from DattoCon16 yesterday, we've arrived at ConnectWise's Automation Nation 2016 here in Orlando, Fla. Our day is packed with executive-level interviews and we also hope to catch up with former hacker Kevin Mitnick, a keynote speaker here later today. Here's the minute-by-minute update.

ConnectWise Interviews: Stay tuned for multiple updates here. We'll reveal our sources and their key comments as interviews are completed throughout the day.

Brett Cheloff, ConnectWise
Brett Cheloff

Brett Cheloff, GM of the LabTech business: Here's a recap of our conversation, which wrapped at 9:50 a.m. ET. Many thoughts are paraphrased.

  • Cheloff yesterday demonstrated a single user interface that will stretch across  ConnectWise, LabTech, Quosal, ScreenConnect, CloudConsole and more...
  • ConnectWise has a 90-day SLA to eliminate defects. Now, the other products in the suite (particularly LabTech) are stepping up to that and expect to deliver the 90-day SLA in time for IT Nation.
  • LabTech 11 will be the company's last "major" upgrade, with smaller, incremental upgrades delivered at regular intervals being the future approach.
  • Following the 2015 company reorganization, the LabTech development team is "really executing" and in a good rhythm on priorities and delivery, he said.
  • ConnectWise CloudConsole will extend to support Microsoft Azure around the August timeframe. The enhancements will allow MSPs to manage Azure database servers, web servers and more in Azure. CloudConsole already supports Office 365, and it requires the ConnectWise PSA system (at least so far).
Reformed Hacker Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick's Message to LabTech Technicians: Attendees here are MSPs that run LabTech's remote monitoring and management (RMM) software. Keynote speaker Kevin Mitnick hacked Novell, Sun and other major technology companies in the 1990s. At the time, I tracked his run from justice -- and the FBI's race to find him -- for InformationWeek. Now, the keynote recap:

  • Mitnick is now an ethical hacker, offering penetration testing and more to his clientele.
  • Mitnick described the weakest link in IT security. It involves social engineering -- a theme he has hammered home for more than two decades. Basically, hackers make phone calls to help desks, marketing and HR folks to trick people into revealing user names, passwords, network information and more.
  • He also described how he uses social media, meta data, peer to peer networks and other information hubs to gather information for potential hacks.
  • How to trick a user into installing a weaponized USB stick: Send the target user a USB stick that has their employer's logo and the words "payroll history" on it. Most users can't avoid the temptation to connect the USB to their PC, he says.
  • Best WiFi hack for Apple iOS: Set up an access point that's listed as AT&T WiFi, since Apple devices have a preference for that...
  • Mitnick demonstrated how he clones access control cards to enter buildings and more. Basically, he hides a card reader in an iPad-type carrying case and positions himself closely to a person carrying an access card. The reader wirelessly lifts the card credentials and clones the card...
  • Phishing: The phishing market now involves open source Asterisk PBXes. The hacker essentially clones a company's voicemail system setup, and tricks callers to dial-in and share account information amid a "man in the middle" attack.

Adam Slutskin, Chief Revenue Officer

We had an extensive talk about the "state" of the MSP software market. We may share more thoughts soon on that. We got into ConnectWise's international expansion strategy as well -- which is led by David Bellini (whom we'll be interviewing later today). Among the highlights:

  • International expansion is meeting/exceeding Slutkin's expectations. Expansion continues in London, with another major expansion planned soon in Sydney, Australia.
  • For additional European locations and international destinations, ConnectWise is "knee-deep" with Ingram an Tech Data. Coming to Australia office with a major Sydney expansion.
  • Pride in ConnectWise's platform is "high" across the sales team, which is living in ConnectWise and Quosal for the company's own sales processes.
  • "The big question for the industry is how we all build our own suites while continuing to integrate with rivals -- without the public rhetoric."

David Bellini, President, ConnectWise International

  • The company continues to expand its localization efforts, including on the talent front. For instance, ConnectWise has hired a marketing manager to localize messaging in Europe.
  • Within the UK's M25 Orbital Motorway there are 20 million people. "It's full of prospects and partners," he says.
  • Localized support continues to ramp up in both the UK and Australia. The partners are expecting hands-on support during the deployments, he says.
  • Next month Tier 1 for ConnectWise and soon thereafter LabTech will have Tier 1 in Europe.
  • Roughly 7,400 partners running ConnectWise PSA with 115,000 users, and the overall partner base is 10,000 partners across PSA, RMM and more.
  • The average ConnectWise partner has grown their PSA user consumption by 50 percent or more, showing ongoing growth of each partner.

BDR Interviews: We're set to meet with a channel chief at a leading backup and disaster recovery market. Check back for the late-afternoon interview.

Cloud Distribution: We're set to meet with a top channel guru from a Fortune 500 distribution company.

Where's the Freakin' News, Analysis?: The content above will evolve throughout the day with actual interviews, sound bites, and analysis. Check back every few hours.

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.