CEO: Security, Go-to-Market Are Next for Continuum

Redmond Channel Partner magazine caught up with Continuum CEO Michael George on Thursday, a day after the managed services provider tools vendor landed an acquisition by Thoma Bravo LLC. (See our story Wednesday for details.) What follows are excerpts from the conversation.

On whether and how long George will be staying on in the CEO role he's held since September 2011:
"I'm a part owner and I'm an investor. By sound mind and reason, I'd be a fool to leave prematurely [laughs]. This is a company that we've been building now for the last five years to get to this foundational point. As long as I'm the right CEO for the company, I intend to stay on."

On whether the investment puts Continuum in better position to make acquisitions, which Thoma Bravo officials mentioned could be on the horizon:
"For sure, but I think that's more a function of the size and scale of our company. When Summit Partners acquired us [in 2011] we were about 400 employees. We've been profitable. We only had 43 employees in the U.S. at the time. Today we're 1,400 employees. We have 400 employees in the U.S. We have offices [now] in the U.K., Australia, Manila and Mumbai. We have a very distributed engineering environment. We've always had capacity to invest, grow and build, or buy. We have more capacity just because we have size and scale. I have a full-time M&A guy on my team, Steve Cardillo, and he has a team of people [looking for companies to acquire, researching them and doing due diligence]."

On what Continuum's MSP partners should expect:
"There are two things that you should see likely change for us, that we'll lean into more aggressively. One is acquisitions -- products and services. [The other is] investing in our go-to-market to make more and better resources available to [our partners] so they can sell and grow and be more profitable. Our revenue model is utilization-based. We're very focused on helping our partners go get more customers."

On the technology areas that Continuum will look to make investments in the near future:
"I think the watchword is security for us. It's a very big problem, and it's getting bigger. If you think about what we do, the unique value proposition from Continuum is the fact that we have this vertically integrated solutions model. We have the NOC, the help desk. Soon we're going to have a security operations center that we're going to take to market that's going to enable people to have massive scale and have our MSPs have massive scale and capacity. Security is the category that no one technology solves for. You have to defend, which technology can do, but then you have to detect, and that requires people. There's over 1,000 people in the service delivery side of [our] business. That completes the whole equation -- RMM, security, then backup and recovery. Those are the three pillars of the IT service waterfront, what I affectionately call the holy trinity of the IT service waterfront."


Posted by Scott Bekker on June 15, 2017 at 12:19 PM0 comments

Thoma Bravo Buys Continuum

Continuum, a major provider of tools for managed service providers (MSPs), is being acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC.

The deal was announced Wednesday evening. Terms were not disclosed.

Thoma Bravo is buying Continuum from Summit Partners about five and a half years after Summit Partners bought the remote monitoring and management (RMM) business of Zenith Infotech, first calling the company Zenith RMM LLC and then a short time later renaming it Continuum.

"Thoma Bravo is the perfect financial and strategic partner for us at this important stage of our company's growth," said Michael George, CEO of Continuum, in a statement in which he also credited Summit Partners for its support over the years. "This investment will enable us to continue to capitalize on our core value propositions and increase critical investments in product development, as well as sales and marketing tools for our MSP partners to help accelerate their growth."

Those investments could lead to add-on acquisitions, according to a statement from a partner at Thoma Bravo, A.J. Rohde. "What Michael George and his team have delivered on in terms of an innovative product suite and full software and services model has been very impressive, and we can't wait to work with them to accelerate the world-class offering they deliver to MSPs, both organically and through add-on acquisitions," Rohde said.

The acquisition comes as part of Thoma Bravo's Discover Fund, which was started in 2016 and focuses on growth-oriented technology companies in the lower middle market. Other Discover Fund investments include integrated risk management provider Riskonnect, cybersecurity provider Bomgar, supply chain operating network Elmica, analytics company Infogix, and parking management software firm T2 Systems.

Within the broader portfolio of companies in which Thoma Bravo either currently holds a stake with its $17 billion in capital commitments or has previously invested are Blue Coat Systems, Hyland Software, Riverbed, SailPoint and SonicWall. One company in that class is SolarWinds, which offers MSP tools that compete with Continuum's.

While the privately held Continuum does not share revenue figures, other statistics touted in the acquisition announcement show growth over the company's scale in 2011. The size of the Continuum channel has gone from 3,000 partners to 5,800 partners, the number of endpoints managed went from 400,000 to more than 1 million, and the employee headcount rose from around 600 to more than 1,400.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 14, 2017 at 12:14 PM0 comments

Microsoft Unveils 2017 Partner of the Year Awards

Microsoft on Thursday named the several hundred winners and finalists of its Partner of the Year Awards, which will be handed out next month when partners gather from around the world in Washington, D.C., for the Microsoft Inspire conference.

Global Category Winners
Alliance Global Commercial ISV Partner of the Year

Alliance SI Partner of the Year

Application Development Partner of the Year

  • Winner: ICONICS
  • Finalist: GmbH
  • Finalist: Black Marble
  • Finalist: Veeam

Business Analytics Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Neal Analytics
  • Finalist: BizData
  • Finalist: Slalom
  • Finalist: Brillio

Cloud Apps Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Neudesic
  • Finalist: MOQdigital
  • Finalist: Rackspace
  • Finalist: SELA

Cloud Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Partner of the Year

Cloud Packaged Solutions Partner of the Year

  • Winner: P2V Systems
  • Finalist: LanCloud (LanKey Group)
  • Finalist:
  • Finalist: Extrinsica Global

Cloud Productivity Partner of the Year

  • Winner: (joint submission) The Consortium -- Content and Code, Inframon, Modality Systems, Program Framework and Coeo
  • Finalist: Dimension Data
  • Finalist: Ernst & Young LLP
  • Finalist: Catapult Systems

Collaboration and Content Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Slalom
  • Finalist: SoftBank Technology
  • Finalist:
  • Finalist: Rapid Circle

Communications Partner of the Year

  • Winner: PAIS Kuwait
  • Finalist: NeWay Technologies
  • Finalist: Modality Systems
  • Finalist: C3ntro Telecom | Microsoft Enterprise Productivity

Customer Experience Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Qorus Software
  • Finalist: Content and Code
  • Finalist: MediaValet
  • Finalist: Cavalry

Data Platform Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Cognizant Technology Solutions
  • Finalist: Bitscape Infotech Pvt Ltd
  • Finalist: (joint submission) HPE & Pragmatic Works Consulting
  • Finalist: Capax Global

DevOps Partner of the Year

  • Winner: InCycle Software
  • Finalist: Sogeti
  • Finalist: Canarys Automations Private Limited
  • Finalist: AIS

Distributor Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Also Holding AG
  • Finalist: Westcoast
  • Finalist: Tech Data
  • Finalist: Ingram Micro

Enterprise Mobility Partner of the Year

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Partner of the Year

  • Winner: SAGlobal
  • Finalist: Accenture/Avanade
  • Finalist: Sable37 (formerly Sable Systems)
  • Finalist: mcaConnect LLC

Hybrid Cloud and Infrastructure Partner of the Year

  • Winner: 10th Magnitude
  • Finalist: InSpark (previously known as inovativ)
  • Finalist: Long View

Internet of Things (IoT) Partner of the Year

  • Winner: COPA-DATA
  • Finalist: The Yield
  • Finalist: Accenture/Avanade
  • Finalist: ML!PA Consulting GmbH

Learning Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Fast Lane
  • Finalist: Firebrand Nordic
  • Finalist: Lithan Academy Pte Ltd

Messaging Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Perficient
  • Finalist: Sonata Information Technology Ltd.
  • Finalist: Wortell
  • Finalist: New Signature

Microsoft Dynamics Industry Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Tribridge
  • Finalist: Levtech Consulting
  • Finalist: Edgewater Fullscope
  • Finalist: Sunrise Technologies Inc.

Microsoft Philanthropies Cloud for Global Good -- Technology for Good Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Navantis
  • Finalist: Gap Consulting
  • Finalist: adesso AG
  • Finalist: NV Interactive

Microsoft Philanthropies Cloud for Global Good -- YouthSpark Partner of the Year

  • Winner: REDBELT
  • Finalist: QA Limited
  • Finalist: Brillio

Mobile App Development Partner of the Year

  • Winner: BlueMetal
  • Finalist: Productive Edge
  • Finalist: Unissoft Technology Co. Ltd.
  • Finalist: SapientRazorfish

Open Source on Azure Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Cardinal Solutions Group
  • Finalist: Aztek
  • Finalist: G&S Gestión y Sistemas SAC
  • Finalist: T-Systems International

Partner Seller Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Sebastien Molendijk, Econocom
  • Finalist: Reed Wiedower, New Signature
  • Finalist: Ronnie Eliasson, B3 IT AB
  • Finalist: Asaf Nakash, Dario IT Solutions

Project and Portfolio Management Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Projectum
  • Finalist: Prosperi
  • Finalist: Ernst & Young LLP
  • Finalist: Sensei Project Solutions

Public Sector: Education Partner of the Year

  • Winner: U-Planner
  • Finalist: Learning Possibilities Limited
  • Finalist: Edsby
  • Finalist: Authentica Solutions

Public Sector: Government Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Lagash
  • Finalist: GIS People
  • Finalist: Bitscape Infotech Pvt Ltd
  • Finalist: risual

Public Sector: Health Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Allscripts
  • Finalist: KPMG
  • Finalist: adesso AG
  • Finalist: SADA Systems Inc.

Public Sector: Microsoft CityNext Partner of the Year

  • Winner: AvePoint
  • Finalist: PricewaterhouseCoopers Private Limited
  • Finalist: Indra Sistemas SA
  • Finalist: Genetec

Public Sector: Public Safety & National Security Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Genetec
  • Finalist: Black Marble
  • Finalist: Taqtile
  • Finalist: (joint submission) NV Interactive & Intergen

Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Be-CLOUD
  • Finalist: Onex Group
  • Finalist: Intercept

Windows and Devices Deployment Partner of the Year

  • Winner: Dell
  • Finalist: Dimension Data
  • Finalist: CDW
  • Finalist: itnetX AG

Country Partner of the Year Winners
Angola: Menshen
Argentina: AXXON Consulting
Armenia: Dom-Daniel
Aruba: (joint submission) NetPro Aruba and Inova Solutions
Australia: Mexia
Austria: ACP IT Solutions
Bahrain: Computer World WLL
Bangladesh: Aamra Technologies
Belarus: JLLC DPA
Belgium: Realdolmen
Bermuda: Fireminds
Bolivia: Dima Ltda
Bosnia & Herzegovina: King ICT
Brazil: Dedalus Prime
Brunei: Tech One Solution Sdn Bhd
Cambodia: Softline (Cambodia) Co.
Canada: Genetec
Cayman Islands: SALT Technology Group
Chile: Softline Internacional Chile
China: Shanghai Nanang Wanbang Software Technology Co. Ltd.
Colombia: Lagash
Costa Rica: ITQuest Solutions
Croatia: COMBIS
Curacao: Inova Solutions
Cyprus: Dot.Cy Developments Ltd.
Czech Republic: SoftwareONE Czech Republic
Denmark: VENZO A/S
Dominican Republic: C-ven Technologies
Egypt: HITS Technologies
El Salvador: Advanced IT Consulting Services
Estonia: Primend
Finland: M-Files Corp.
France: Cegid
Germany: ORBIS AG
Greece: ATCOM S.A.
Guatemala: SEGA
Honduras: SEGA Honduras
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region: HKT Limited
Hungary: S&T Hungary Consulting
Iceland: Wise
India: Sonata Information Technology Ltd.
Indonesia: PT Mastersystem Infotama
Ireland: Codec-dss
Israel: Cloud Valley (Dario IT Solutions)
Italy: Softjam spa
Jamaica: Inova Solutions
Japan: FIXER Inc.
Jordan: Specialized Technical Services
Kazakhstan: Softline Services LLP
Kenya: Dimension Data
Korea: SBCK Corp.
Kuwait: Diyar United Trading & Contracting Co.
Latvia: Squalio (SIA DPA)
Lebanon: Comprehensive Computing Innovations
Lithuania: UAB SQUALIO Lietuva
Luxembourg: Wizata
Malaysia: rhipe
Malta: Eyetech Ltd.
Martinique: Infodom
Mauritius: The Cloud Factory EMEA Ltd.
Mexico: Pegaso Tecnologia
Morocco: Netopia Solutions
Netherlands: SnelStart Software B.V.
New Zealand: Kinetics Group
Nicaragua: Intcomex
Nigeria: Reliance Infosystems Ltd.
Oman: International Information Technology Co. LLC
Pakistan: Confiz
Palestinian Authority: NTS
Panama: Business IT Panama
Paraguay: Diviserv S.A.
Peru: G&S Gestion y Sistemas SAC
Philippines: EPLDT Inc.
Poland: Sagra Technology Sp. z o.o.
Portugal: Tech Data Portugal
Puerto Rico: Invid, LLC
Qatar: Mannai Corp.
Romania: Likeit Solution SRL
Russia: Navicon
Rwanda: Dimension Data
Saudi Arabia: Computer World International
Serbia: ComTrade System Integration
Singapore: Accenture/Avanade
Slovakia: Softip, a.s.
Slovenia: Stroka produkt d.o.o.
South Africa: BUI
Spain: Avanade Spain SLU
Sri Lanka: Sanje Pvt Ltd
Sweden: Acando AB
Switzerland: Sword Switzerland
Taiwan: Iscom Online International Information Inc.
Tanzania: Techno Brain T Ltd.
Thailand: G-Able Mverge
Trinidad & Tobago: Inova Solutions
Turkey: Netas Telekomunikasyon A.S.
Ukraine: Comparex Ukraine LLC
United Arab Emirates: Teambase
United Kingdom: CGI IT UK Ltd.
United States: Neudesic
Uruguay: AT srl
Venezuela: RKM Suministros S.A.
Vietnam: HPT Vietnam Corp.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 01, 2017 at 11:48 AM0 comments

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

In an effort to build out its community of implementation partners, 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, has a large community of SIs, and the company says those consulting partners are seeing their 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, 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 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's other types of partners. "SIs aren't as capital-intensive as ISVs, so some of the amounts may be small investments," she noted.'s initial investments with the fund included a pair of SI partners that could themselves accelerate the growth of other 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 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, 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

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