MSP, IT management

MSP Market Shift: From Infrastructure to SaaS Application Management?

For roughly two decades, MSPs have leveraged RMM (remote monitoring and management) software tools to maintain customer PCs, servers, network infrastructure, and other endpoint devices. That remains a big installed base opportunity. But a blue ocean MSP opportunity -- namely, managing SaaS applications for customers -- remains largely untapped.

Perhaps that's about to change. Indeed, two startups this week introduced SaaS application management platforms for MSPs. The startup names to know include Augmentt (from N-able veterans Gavin Garbutt and Derik Belair) — and SaaS Alerts.

SaaS Applications and MSPs: Management Opportunities

Gavin Garbutt, chairman, Augmentt
LinkedIn: Gavin Garbutt, chairman and co-founder, Augmentt

Derik Belair, CEO and co-founder, Augment

Garbutt and Belair are well-known MSP industry veterans. Their previous efforts at N-able Technologies helped to pioneer the MSP software market, recurring revenue business models, along with sales and compensation plans for partners.

Those pioneering efforts caught the attention of SolarWinds, which acquired N-able in 2013 for $120 million cash. N-able's software lives on as SolarWinds N-central.

Meanwhile, Belair and Garbutt have spent extensive time studying the MSP market's evolution and modern-day partner needs. Instead of throwing everything at the wall to see what will stick, Augmentt wants to focus on doing one thing extremely well -- namely, helping MSPs get SaaS applications under control for customers, the executives say.

Augmentt's software platform spans three components for MSPs:

  • Augmentt Discover, which is a SaaS and Shadow IT discovery and reporting module (available now).
  • Augmentt Optimize, which is a SaaS usage and spend tracking module (available now).
  • Augmentt Manage, a SaaS administration, management and automation module designed to eliminate time-consuming manual processes (coming soon).

For MSPs, potential Augmentt use cases include tracking SaaS application consumption, and then helping customers to eliminate SaaS sprawl, unused licenses, and non-approved applications.

SaaS Alerts Business Launch: Meanwhile, SaaS Alerts is positioning itself as a unified monitoring and alerting platform that allows MSPs to protect and monetize their customers’ core business SaaS applications. Specifically, SaaS Alerts was designed to "help MSPs monitor and protect their customers’ usage of today’s most popular SaaS applications such as Microsoft Office 365, G Suite, Salesforce, Dropbox and more – and to safeguard against security threats to a businesses’ SaaS environment such as data theft, data that’s at risk due to unintentional employee mishaps and actions taken by bad actors," the company says.

SaaS Applications and MSPs: Beyond the Reseller Motion

No doubt, thousands of MSPs resell and then deploy Microsoft 365 and other SaaS applications for customers. From there, savvy MSPs typically wrap third-party cybersecurity, data protection, backup and disaster recovery (BDR) services around the SaaS applications.

Many of those MSP transactions involve close working relationships with cloud marketplaces like D&H, Ingram Micro Cloud, Pax8, and Sherweb, just to name a few.

Still, Augmentt and SaaS Alerts are tackling additional revenue and IT management opportunities that MSPs may have overlooked. Namely, SaaS application monitoring that optimizes (i.e., potentially reduces) SaaS spend, eliminates data leakage and more.

Early SaaS Management Experiments: In some ways, I've got a case of deja vu. Several major MSP software providers have either acquired or launched cloud management and spending management tools over the past five years. Examples include ConnectWise launching CloudConsole (rebranded as Unite) in 2016, Autotask (now owned by Datto) launching CSP Boss in 2016, and Kaseya buying Unigma in 2017. But to the best of my knowledge, none of those tools ever gained critical mass with MSPs.

What went wrong? I think those SaaS-oriented tools got caught in a challenging middle ground. At one end of the spectrum, some MSPs wanted the SaaS management tools to be freely bundled with RMM software. At the other end of the spectrum, RMM vendors wanted to create new SaaS monitoring revenue streams -- perhaps without adding enough value or fully communicating the value of those new tools to MSPs.

Still, I've seen examples of SaaS management success up at the high-end of the MSP market. Indeed, cloud-based application performance monitoring (APM) tools from DataDog, New Relic and others have caught on with some high-end and enterprise-class MSPs. Those tools often focus more on cloud infrastructure monitoring, but the APM portion of the conversation should not be ignored. After all, APM is a close cousin of SaaS. Also, we've seen MSPs that specifically focus on managed services for Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics and other cloud or hosted applications.

SaaS Applications and MSPs: SMB Market Gaps

Meanwhile, there's a potential SaaS management gap in the SMB market. I've seen it myself. Within our own small business, we sometimes struggle to track our SaaS subscriptions, consumption (i.e., user adoption) and associated expenses. Our two primary MSPs do a great job developing and maintaining our primary cloud platform (i.e., WordPress) and collaboration services. But nobody has every really approached us to take inventory of our SaaS systems, and pinpoint potential concerns around security, wasted spend and more.

Starting immediately, Augmentt and SaaS Alerts each are reaching out to MSPs to fill those potential SaaS management gaps.

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.