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IT's Perfect Storm: Managed Services, SaaS and Cloud Computing

By Jeffrey M. Kaplan
Nov 13, 2009 4:00 AM PT

In a previous column, I described why many IT professionals within small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as in large-scale enterprises, are beginning to embrace Software as a Service, and why managed service providers (MSPs) can't afford to ignore SaaS.

IT's Perfect Storm: Managed Services, SaaS and Cloud Computing

I recently attended an industry event that brought my previous observations to life and added a new dimension -- cloud computing -- to these dynamics.

The event was the fifth annual ConnectWise Partner Summit in Orlando, Fla.

ConnectWise is not a household name in the SaaS or cloud computing markets, but it is a pivotal player in the managed services arena. It calls itself a "professional services automation" (PSA) provider for IT professionals, but its software also helps them manage their help desk operations and sales processes.

Revolution in the Making

What makes ConnectWise interesting is that it has built its success on a highly leveraged partner strategy, and is now migrating its software applications to the "cloud" and offering them as SaaS solutions in a manner that could dramatically change the IT management landscape.

ConnectWise's SaaS/cloud computing strategy has evolved in response to the demands of customers that are often undergoing their own migration from a traditional value-added reseller (VAR)/break-fix service business to a full-fledged MSP business.

ConnectWise's software has been an instrumental part of this transformation process, and its pay-as-you-go SaaS model combined with the low-cost cloud computing model is accelerating the process.

Although ConnectWise found some success selling its software applications to IT professionals, it has built even greater success by utilizing MSPs and third-party software developers (i.e., ISVs) as channel partners. This is what has led to the success of its Partner Summit, which many of the attendees told me is now the best event in the managed services industry.

What struck me about the event is that it resembled Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference for its enthusiasm in the midst of a dismal economic environment. Like Salesforce.com, ConnectWise is aggressively expanding its partner network by opening up its application program interfaces and promoting itself as the leading evangelist of a new revolution, "IT Nation."

It is also expanding its online resources and regional user groups to encourage industry best practices.

Capitalizing on the Cloud

What made the ConnectWise event especially encouraging was its advocacy of the power of SaaS and cloud computing to VARs/MSPs that have become the "trusted" IT solution suppliers to a widening array of SMB and enterprise decision-makers who previously may have been reluctant to pursue these Web-based alternatives.

Rather than being disintermediated by the SaaS/cloud computing movement, the VARs/MSPs that attended this event were trying to fully understand how they could capitalize on SaaS and cloud computing.

As a result, they may be in the vanguard of channel companies that deliver these on-demand solutions to mainstream organizations.

Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies and founder of the SaaS Showplace. He can be reached at jkaplan@thinkstrategies.com. Disclosure: ConnectWise paid Kaplan's travel expenses to its Partner Summit in Orlando, Fla.

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