RCP Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.

Salesforce Looking To Back Dozens of SIs with $50M Fund

In an effort to build out its community of implementation partners, Salesforce.com is spinning up a $50 million fund to invest in systems integrators (SIs) and creating a parallel operation to support companies in that portfolio.

The San Francisco-based cloud CRM giant unveiled the SI Trailblazer Fund and the SI Trailblazer Alliance Initiative on Wednesday.

Although best known for the ISV partners in its AppExchange community, Salesforce.com has a large community of SIs, and the company says those consulting partners are seeing their Salesforce.com practices grow more than 50 percent annually.

"Salesforce has thousands of SIs. We don't break out a specific number, as it's constantly changing, particularly as we add new partners due to acquisitions such as Demandware, Krux and other companies," said Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, Salesforce.com senior vice president for Partner & Industry Innovation, in an e-mail exchange Thursday.

The goal of the $50 million fund being administered by the company's corporate investment group, Salesforce Ventures, is to both help current SI partners expand and to attract new SIs globally over the next few years, she said.

"We want to increase capacity overall, whether existing SIs who want to grow or new SIs who want to join the program. For new SIs, we have the SI Trailblazer Alliance Initiative -- a set of 'concierge-like' onboarding services and support -- to help them get up-and-running fast," Taychakhoonavudh said.

Those services for the portfolio companies will include an accelerated onboarding experience, marketing and sales mentorships, marketing development funds (MDF) and implementation guidance.

The number of SIs that Salesforce.com will target is relatively small. "Salesforce Ventures is looking to back dozens of SIs," Taychakhoonavudh said. Yet, the nature of SIs means the fund will stretch further than it might with some of Salesforce.com's other types of partners. "SIs aren't as capital-intensive as ISVs, so some of the amounts may be small investments," she noted.

Salesforce.com's initial investments with the fund included a pair of SI partners that could themselves accelerate the growth of other Salesforce.com SIs -- 7Summits, which is an online community consulting partner focused on the social community space, and ATG, which provides quote-to-cash advisory and implementation services that it provides to other Salesforce.com partners.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 01, 2017 at 4:03 PM0 comments


New Ingram Micro Financing Options Include Hardware-as-a-Service

Ingram Micro partners are able to offer hardware-as-a-service and hardware-as-a-rental as part of a new program by the Irvine, Calif.-based distributor.

Ingram unveiled the Technology as a Service Program on Wednesday for qualifying Ingram Micro channel partners. The program expands on the $1.1 billion in credit the distributor has extended to U.S.-based channel partners over the last 14 months.

"Our new Technology as a Service options are designed to allow our channel partners to sell an entire technology solution including their own managed services for one monthly fee," said Kelly Carter, executive director of Ingram Micro Financial Services, in a statement.

Options within the program include flexible leasing for bundling IT services and solutions into a consolidated monthly invoice, hardware-as-a-service, hardware-as-a-rental, full or partial funding for recurring revenue model engagements, and end-of-life options. The hardware-as-a-service and hardware-as-a-rental can be applied to either new or refurbished technologies, Ingram Micro said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 01, 2017 at 10:00 AM0 comments


Microsoft Defends Its Presence on OEMs' Hardware Turf

With a huge business built on providing software that ships with hardware produced by strategic ecosystem partners, Microsoft's own foray into hardware is a fraught affair.

The company's stated aim in designing its own hardware is to inspire hardware partners to leverage the full capabilities of Windows and other Microsoft platforms. When it works -- think the Microsoft Surface, Surface Book, HoloLens or Surface Pen -- the approach can spark new categories of popular devices from a range of vendors.

Other times, the results can be confusing, such as when Microsoft bought Nokia's phone business to bolster its struggling Windows Phone platform, and counterintuitively predicted that by owning the biggest manufacturer of Windows Phone devices, Microsoft would somehow encourage more handsets for that ecosystem from other vendors. It didn't pan out that way.

In the midst of another confusing chapter in its hardware efforts -- the rollout of the Microsoft Surface Laptop family -- Microsoft executives at the Computex 2017 show in Taiwan seemed to feel the need to clarify that their hardware strategy continues to be about driving growth and customer demand for the OEM partner ecosystem.

"Our partner model is unique in the industry as we collaborate end-to-end, from design through all phases of the product lifecycle and across consumer and device channels. Together, we are building new experiences for customers, generating demand, and ultimately creating growth in existing and new categories including mixed reality, the Internet of Things, and Always Connected PCs with Intel and Qualcomm," said Nick Parker, corporate vice president of consumer devices and sales at Microsoft, in his Wednesday keynote at Computex, one of the largest gatherings of PC OEMs in the world.

Microsoft's Peter Han, displaying the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro at this week's Computex event. (Source: Microsoft)

"At Microsoft, our success scales with our partners and, as an ecosystem, we reinvent existing markets even as we explore new ones," Parker said.

Backing up Parker with an implicit message that Microsoft OEM partners are on board and working with Microsoft to jointly make and flood new technology niches, Microsoft's Peter Han took the stage in Taipei to show new devices from a variety of vendors.

The highlight was Always Connected PCs and devices, which use integrated LTE or eSIM and involve both hardware partnerships and mobile operator partnerships. Intel already claims more than 30 Always Connected PCs in the market. Microsoft on Wednesday pointed out partnerships with Intel, Qualcomm, ASUS, HP, Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi.

Then there were Windows Mixed Reality headset designs coming later this year from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP and Lenovo. Han also showcased OEMs' Windows 10 devices tuned for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update from Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Panasonic, Samsung and Toshiba.

Microsoft name-checked most of the big OEMs in its annual show of force at Computex. While the overt message was about a vibrant ecosystem building interesting systems around Windows, the subtext in this flat-at-best global PC market seemed to be this: Windows will still live or die by the success of OEM partners, not by the strength of Microsoft's own hardware unit.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 31, 2017 at 2:45 PM0 comments


Microsoft Inspire Keynote Lineup To Include Huddleston

The Microsoft Inspire conference will be the first high-profile opportunity for partners to get a sense of Ron Huddleston, who as the head of the newly created One Commercial Partner organization plays an important role in how Microsoft allocates its resources for the channel.

Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group (WPG), unveiled the speaker lineup this week for Inspire, the July partner gathering previously known as the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC).

As usual, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Schuster will each give a keynote. The CEO has traditionally kicked off the conference and the WPG leader always delivers a speech updating partner programs and incentives. Reprising his spy thriller-style keynotes overviewing Microsoft's role in major geopolitical questions, such as legal challenges to mass surveillance, will be President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. Executive Vice President of the Microsoft Worldwide Commercial Business Judson Althoff provided the conference wrap-up keynote last year and is on the speaker list again for 2017.

Also speaking are Toni Townes-Whitley, corporate vice president of Public Sector and Industry, and Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Office Marketing.

Huddleston will be an important new face on the main keynote stage. He was elevated to corporate vice president of the One Commercial Partner organization on Feb. 1. He reports to Althoff and counts Schuster, as well as the head of the Enterprise Partner Team, Victor Morales, and Kim Akers, who runs an ISV team, among his direct reports.

Last year, he had just joined Microsoft ahead of WPC from Salesforce.com, where he was senior vice president of Global ISV & Channels and played a major role in creating the AppExchange marketplace.

It's possible Huddleston's keynote could cover some of the kinds of material previously addressed at WPC by Microsoft Chief Evangelist Steve "Guggs" Guggenheimer.

In a blog post from the Microsoft Build show earlier this month, Guggs disclosed that he was leaving the developer evangelism group (DX) after 4.5 years to take a role in Microsoft's artificial intelligence and research efforts. "As Microsoft accelerates its AI investments to amplify human ingenuity, I look forward to seeing what Charlotte Yarkoni, CVP, John Shewchuk, Technical Fellow, and Ron Huddleston, CVP, do for developers and ISV's as they onboard the teams that previously comprised DX," he said.

In a few public blog posts on the Microsoft site late last year and this year, Huddleston has encouraged partners of all stripes to concentrate on developing intellectual property -- a major recurring theme from Microsoft to its partners dating back to Phil Sorgen's time atop the WPG.

Whether Huddleston talks about development opportunities with Microsoft products generally, resources for ISVs, opportunities for development by systems integration partners, or potential new ways Microsoft will go about distributing partner-related resources, Inspire attendees in the room in Washington, D.C., and remotely over the Web will be listening closely.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 25, 2017 at 11:47 AM0 comments


Partners Applaud Surface Pro Battery Life, LTE Support, Processor

Surface reseller partners were enthusiastic about elements of the lightly refreshed Surface Pro that Microsoft unveiled Tuesday morning at an event in Shanghai.

Panos Panay, corporate vice president for Microsoft Devices, unveiled the unnumbered Surface Pro, which delivers a number of mostly incremental improvements over the aging Surface Pro 4 that it replaces. The new Surface Pro is available to order now and will begin shipping June 15.

"I'm really excited for it," said Trevor Ferguson, the manager of SHI's Microsoft hardware team, in a telephone interview. "What really jumped out was the enhanced battery life, as well as the LTE support," said Ferguson, who came in to work early Tuesday morning to watch a Web feed of the launch from China.

Microsoft is claiming 13.5 hours of battery life for the Surface Pro, a figure the company says is a 50 percent improvement over the Surface Pro 4 and claims is 35 percent longer than an Apple iPad Pro. The LTE Advanced functionality, which won't ship immediately but is coming later this year, represents the first time that capability has been available in a Surface Pro model. LTE support was a popular feature of the now unavailable Surface 3 tablets, Ferguson noted.

The new Surface Pro can be used at a nearly flat angle like its larger cousin, the Surface Studio.

Combined, the battery life and the LTE support will make the Surface Pro a much more mobile-friendly device, Ferguson said. "If you think about it, most people now are working on the go. More people are traveling and they want to be connected wherever they are," he said.

Wendell Layne, business development manager supporting Windows 10 migrations at St. Louis-based World Wide Technology (WWT), also welcomed the updated device, saying the 7th generation Intel Core processor will make the biggest difference for WWT's customers. "To me that's probably the biggest update because that brings with it a lot of new capabilities," Layne said.

Other features that caught partners' attention were the new kickstand hinge that allows the device to be pushed back to a 165-degree angle that mimics the working angle of the desktop Surface Studio, the new ability to use the Surface Dial on the screen rather than as strictly an off-screen accessory, and the improved screen resolution.

The incremental release comes after a financial quarter (Q3) in which Surface sales had slipped 26 percent, with Surface Pro sales specifically being singled out as "lower than expected" by Microsoft in its call with financial analysts. Yet Layne said the relatively low-key upgrade to the Surface Pro this time may be intentional.

"You have to look at the bigger picture Microsoft is trying to accomplish. Microsoft is essentially trying to push their OEMs to advance the devices that are out there to support Windows 10," he said. "They don't want to put HP and Dell out of [the PC] business. They're essentially giving their partners an opportunity to catch up and provide better devices."

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 23, 2017 at 4:35 PM0 comments


A Dozen Defenses Against Ransomware (Some Good Against WannaCry)

WannaCry (also known as WannaCrypt) is developing into a potentially transformative ransomware incident.

Ransomware is nothing new and IT experts, especially vendors in the security and backup and recovery sectors, have been running around with their hair on fire about it for a few years now.

Yet WannaCry, which first hit May 12 and reached 150 countries and 200,000 machines by some counts, could be the high-profile incident that makes ransomware into a widespread concern that causes customers to start sitting up and paying attention when their managed services providers (MSPs) propose ransomware defense measures.

A lot of vendors are flooding the information zone right now with anti-ransomware advice for their partners or for end customers. Much of the advice is good, but, predictably, most of it involves what their particular product can do to stop ransomware. What's interesting about ransomware, however, is how many different threads an effective attack ties together. A multi-layered defense strategy that spans different tools and tactics is a must.

The WannaCry attack was in full swing as RCP was finishing up our May/June issue and we took the opportunity to develop a partner guide (available here for free) for ransomware best practices. We used WannaCry as a springboard for the report, but we took a more general approach to the problem of ransomware.

As we scraped our notebooks, previous coverage of ransomware and the WannaCry news, we were anticipating finding between four and six specific tactics that should be part of a comprehensive ransomware strategy for an MSP. Instead, we discovered an even dozen -- some technology, some education, some street-corner psychology.

Some of the same things that made WannaCry such a nasty piece of code mean that some of the standard tactics won't work against it. For example, some researchers are making the case that WannaCry used Internet scans to find systems with an unpatched SMB flaw to gain purchase inside victimized organizations rather than a more traditional spam or phishing attack to get in. So in this case, end user education, anti-spam tools and the like aren't much help.

If there's one thing that's true of IT security problems, it's that old attack vectors rarely go out of style. Even if spam or phishing-based attacks aren't a vehicle for WannaCry, they will continue to be for other families of ransomware still skulking around and will be for as-yet-undreamed-of families of ransomware that are sure to emerge.

Sadly, none of these defenses can probably ever be retired. They'll all have to be maintained and improved, even as new protection tactics get added to the checklists that disciplined MSPs go through to keep their customers as safe as possible.

To see the full guide, click here (free registration required).

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 22, 2017 at 9:59 AM0 comments


Webcast: Dynamics 365 in CSP for Infrastructure Partners

Dynamics is a historically tricky business for Microsoft's traditional infrastructure partners. Selling and implementing the business applications require a different skill set than what's required on the infrastructure side.

The way Microsoft is now packaging its new Dynamics 365 cloud service in the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) business model makes the whole opportunity a lot more intriguing for partners who come from the Windows/Exchange/Office 365 side of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN).

RCP is presenting a webcast tomorrow, May 23, for managed service providers (MSPs) and Office 365 partners who are curious about the Dynamics 365 market. I'll be moderating and giving a overview of the opportunity and trends.

Sponsoring the session and presenting with me are executives from SBS Group -- Jim Bowman, CEO, and Scott May, director of channel programs. SBS Group is a Master VAR in the Dynamics community. Earlier this year, SBS launched the Stratos Cloud Alliance within Microsoft's CSP framework.

It's one of the 11 U.S. CSP indirect providers -- companies like Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Synnex and SherWeb that resell Microsoft cloud services to other partners who can bundle them with additional services and set their own end-user pricing. What makes Stratos different is that it's the first of the indirect CSPs to approach the market from the Dynamics side, rather than from the general IT infrastructure side.

Join us tomorrow to find out how they're building Dynamics expertise into the CSP package and to get your questions answered about whether Dynamics 365 in the CSP model makes sense for you. Click here to register.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 22, 2017 at 1:12 PM0 comments


Microsoft and the Q4 Incentive: How Long Will This Go On?

As Microsoft shifts its revenue mix from on-premise to cloud, you might expect the transition to change the company's calendar emphasis on closing deals from the end of the fiscal year -- June for Microsoft -- to the beginning of the year a month later.

After all, an Office 365 contract signed on July 1 means 12 months of revenues for Microsoft, while a deal closed in May is only worth two months of subscriptions.

That makes the fourth-quarter campaigns to get the partner sales teams out on the streets a bit anachronistic, but here they come anyway.

Microsoft this month highlighted a Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Power Up Reseller Incentive good through June 30. The deal offers U.S. CSP partners incremental incentives up to $50,000 for selling Office 365, Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS), Dynamics 365 and Azure. Partners interested in participating must register before June 1, and managed resellers could be eligible for an additional incentive.

Despite the changing dynamics of its business, Microsoft has a few logical reasons for keeping the Q4 promotions going aside from the inertia of always doing it that way. It's still got annual numbers to hit and, after all, a deal closed in Q4 will bring revenues for the next year (and the year after that, et cetera). The fiscal year close also creates that artificial sense of urgency that's so important to driving action among buyers.

In this specific instance, the CSP promotion gives Microsoft something positive to talk about (free money!) in a blog post that soft-pedals the transition from the Advisor model -- which used to be the mainstay of partner cloud sales but is being sunsetted in favor of CSP.

Those factors aside, it will be interesting to see how long Microsoft continues with the Q4 promotion treadmill as more and more of the business is built on recurring revenues through the cloud.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 17, 2017 at 11:34 AM0 comments


Kaseya Buys Cloud Management Tools Vendor

LAS VEGAS -- In its ongoing quest to provide more components of the managed service provider (MSP) tool stack and broaden the definition of that stack, Kaseya acquired Unigma, a maker of cloud management tools.

One of the pioneers of the remote management and monitoring (RMM) toolsets for MSPs, Kaseya has lately branched out into the professional services automation (PSA) tools market. While CEO Fred Voccola argues the traditional market of managing endpoints for SMBs remains a very strong business, he contends that the far greater opportunity lies in providing managed services to those customers around emerging technology areas.

The Unigma acquisition, completed on March 31 and unveiled during the KaseyaConnect 2017 conference in Las Vegas this week, represents one of those emerging technology areas. Kaseya is making the functionality available immediately as the Unigma Cloud Management Suite and as a cloud complement to the Traverse network management tools in the Kaseya IT Complete Platform.

"Unigma is about managing public clouds from Amazon, Microsoft and Google," said Mike Puglia, Kaseya's chief product officer, from the keynote stage.

A core component of Unigma is a Cloud Manager, which provides a single dashboard for monitoring Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud instances, and for performing and automating public cloud tasks in the Unigma interface rather than by logging in to the individual clouds.

One example of the way Cloud Manager could be used would be turning off a quality assurance lab in a public cloud for a customer over the weekend when it's not in use and would merely be costing a customer money, Puglia said.

Other components include a Unigma Billing Manager, which will help MSPs invoice customers based on each customer's utilization, and a Unigma Cloud Cost Optimizer, which performs cloud cost savings analysis to help customers right-size their public cloud spending to match their business needs.

In his keynote, Voccola called Unigma the leader in a burgeoning market of cloud market solutions. Kaseya, which is privately held, did not disclose the value of the deal. Kaseya executives say Unigma has about 75 MSP customers, in addition to enterprise customers. Unigma CEO Kirill Bensonoff stayed on and is now running the Unigma business unit for Kaseya.

Voccola says Unigma could help MSPs and their SMB customers overcome a common trap. "[Most] SMBs believe that public cloud providers manage their infrastructure -- monitoring, security, backup. We all know they don't," he said. Conducting a cost audit using the Unigma Cloud Cost Optimizer could start a productive conversation that ends with SMBs realizing what kinds of help they need with their cloud environments.

The process was eye-opening internally at Kaseya, he said. Kaseya was spending $4 million annually across AWS, Azure and Google for various services. Using Unigma, he said the company discovered "we only needed to be spending $3.4 million. There was about $600,000 that we were misappropriating."

Running similar proof of concepts would be a great managed service, he said. "This is game changing for our MSPs."

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 10, 2017 at 8:51 AM0 comments


Rhodes Leaving Rackspace, Cotten Named Interim CEO

Rackspace CEO Taylor Rhodes is leaving the company on May 16 to become CEO of an unnamed smaller company, and President Jeff Cotten is stepping up as interim CEO while the board of directors seeks a long-term replacement to lead the privately held San Antonio, Texas-based hosting giant.

Calling it a tough decision in a blog post Wednesday, Rhodes said, "I'm going to become the CEO of a smaller private company. It's based in another city. It does not compete with Rackspace. I'll be able to talk more specifically about it in a couple of weeks, but for now let me just say that it's about the size Rackspace was when I started here 10 years ago -- and it's growing about as rapidly. It's using cloud technologies to disrupt what has been a very low-tech industry. The company is going through growing pains and needs a CEO who has been through those challenges before."

According to Rhodes, the board considers Cotten a strong candidate for the permanent CEO job.

Cotten was promoted to president on Feb. 1, after eight years at Rackspace that included three years running Rackspace's international business and most recently running Rackspace's fast-growing Fanatical Support for Amazon Web Services (AWS) business. The AWS program is patterned after a similar Fanatical Support for Microsoft Azure program that is a slightly bigger operation for Rackspace, which is also an indirect provider in the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program and a five-time Microsoft Partner of the Year Award winner.

Cotten said the company, which went private in a $4.3 billion deal that closed in November, will not "take any kind of timeout" during his interim CEO tenure.

"We're going to keep driving to expand Rackspace's leadership of the fast-growing market for managed cloud services," Cotten wrote in a blog post.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 04, 2017 at 11:46 AM0 comments


Continuum MSPs Get Access to Auvik Networking Tools

Continuum's managed service provider partners will be able to manage customers' routers, switches and firewalls through a newly integrated third-party offering.

The Boston-based remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools provider first unveiled an agreement to bundle the networking technology from Auvik Networks during the Continuum Navigate 2016 conference last September.

On Thursday, the companies made the integration available as the Continuum Network Management by Auvik solution, accessible by Continuum partners through the Continuum ITSupport Portal.

The Auvik technology automatically identifies network infrastructure and provides visibility and control of those devices to allow MSPs to troubleshoot network problems faster and perform proactive maintenance.

The integration of the two companies' offerings includes the ability to manage Auvik tickets and alerts from the same pane of glass that provides control for the servers, desktops and mobile devices that are handled by Continuum's flagship RMM tool. Additionally, Continuum's Network Operations Center is now set up to handle the Auvik data and business cases with on-demand network experts and the ability remediate alerts from network devices.

The Continuum partnership is one of several for Waterloo, Ontario-based Auvik, which secured its first funding round four years ago and takes its name from Auviq, an Inuit word for a block of snow used to build an igloo. The company also has MSP industry partnerships with Autotask and with ConnectWise, both on the professional services automation side with ConnectWise Manage and on the RMM side with ConnectWise Automate (formerly LabTech).

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 04, 2017 at 12:22 PM0 comments


After Putting Itself on the Block, Citrix Attracts Some Bids

At least three buyout firms are in the running to buy Citrix Systems Inc., according to a report.

"Private equity firms Bain Capital, Carlyle Group LP and Thoma Bravo are among bidders for cloud-services company Citrix Systems Inc., people familiar with the matter said," reported Bloomberg Technology this week.

News emerged in March that Citrix had retained Goldman Sachs Group to see potential buyers, and rumors have since circulated about who might be interested in the company, which specializes in virtualization technologies that factor in many cloud and datacenter infrastructures. Citrix is one of the most common strategic vendors for many Microsoft partners, and Microsoft is one of the names frequently circulated as a potential strategic suitor.

The sources who spoke to Bloomberg Technology also said at least one corporate bidder was interested, but they didn't say what company or companies were sniffing around.

The sources also said Citrix may not pursue a sale.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 04, 2017 at 10:37 AM0 comments