By adding key Microsoft System Center Essentials capabilities to its N-central 6.5 multi-customer management solution, N-able is creating a single powerful console for both tools.

If you're a Microsoft partner looking to get a foot in the door in terms of offering your customers remote support and managed services, you're about to get an interesting option.

N-able Technologies, known for its flagship N-central remote monitoring and management solution, is working with Microsoft to integrate System Center Essentials into its offering.

N-able Technologies Inc.

N-central 6.5 integrates with Microsoft System Center Essentials

By end of 2008

N-central is available as traditional software or as a hosted service. N-central OnDemand (the hosted version) costs $6.50 per node with a 10-node minimum and a six-month contract. The traditional N-central OnPremise software costs $399 for 100 managed devices, plus unlimited attended remote control sessions.

Key Features:
  • One-console management and monitoring of multiple customer sites, allowing easy entry into managed services.
  • Scalable support for multiple small to midsize sites with up to 30 servers and 500 PCs.
  • Available as traditional software or as a Software as a Service hosted offering.
  • Upcoming integration will allow N-central users to leverage Microsoft System Center Essentials' more in-depth Microsoft-centric management.

  • Other VAR-focused remote management/monitoring tools such as Dell's Silverback Technologies, Kaseya, Level Platforms Inc., Ingram-Micro's Seismic and Zenith InfoTech.

  • Single, centralized management lets VARs leverage the best of both worlds-N-central's multi-customer views and capabilities and System Center Essentials' in-depth Microsoft management expertise.
  • Free one-year trial for Microsoft partners eases entry into managed services.
  • N-central 6.5 is Web-based software that lets partners monitor and manage several customer sites simultaneously from a single, easy-to-use console. It lets partners handle a variety of remote admin tasks, including updating software, executing scripts, conducting disk defragmentations and diagnosing and resolving problems for their customers.

    By the end of 2008, N-able plans to integrate System Center Essentials capabilities into its software. This means that partners that have deployed Essentials at key customer sites can take advantage of N-central to remotely monitor and manage those sites from the single N-central console.

    "System Center Essentials is a very powerful product. It manages Microsoft environments extremely well. It has a lot of third-party support, is very deep and robust, and has a built-in knowledge base that's unequaled in the industry," says Rob Bissett, product manager at N-able. "What it doesn't do is go across customer sites and aggregate into a multi-customer environment."

    Best of Both Worlds
    The integration will give service providers the best of both worlds, he says: "They get a single, Web-based console that allows them to manage multiple customer networks using N-central, while the integration provides added depth and added manageability from the customer site powered by Essentials."

    Bissett declined to specify when the integrated solution would be available, saying only that "we're hoping to have something in-market before the end of the year."

    Microsoft partners are looking forward to the new capabilities. "The integration will extend a bunch of Essentials features to us that we would love to manage through N-able," says David D'Arcy, president of New York-based Precision IT Group, a Gold Certified Partner that's been using N-central for two years. "Some small things, like the ability to use Essentials' network topography view, would be great. As minor as that sounds, it's very useful to a company like us, where we turn up clients all the time. One of our engineers can quickly jump into an issue because he can literally see the actual network right away."

    D'Arcy says he also looks forward to leveraging Essentials' patch management and software package deployment capabilities within N-central. "Right now, we can push things like Microsoft Office or anything we can roll up into an .MSI file through N-able's Remote Environment Manager," he says. "But System Center provides a really easy wizard to do that. We're hoping that all of this integration is within N-able so we can teach our guy one console instead of two. That's a huge value-add."

    The Competition Currently, N-able's N-central
    competes with other remote-management and monitoring suites, such as those from Dell's Silverback Technologies, Kaseya, Level Platforms Inc., Ingram-Micro's Seismic and Zenith InfoTech. N-able's key differentiators include its focus on keeping pace with Microsoft, its depth of expertise in working with the channel and its flexible options for supporting any size VAR with any size customer base.

    "N-able's definitely keeping up with Microsoft's constantly changing technology," D'Arcy says, noting that N-able is moving away from using WSUS and toward Microsoft's new view of patch management via Essentials "That's hard to do, but it's very important for a business like ours."

    Bissett notes that N-able sells only to the channel, "which is not true of all our competitors."

    In addition, N-able's Software as a Service (SaaS) offering makes it easier for VARs to get started in managed services. "Because of the SaaS offering, we can literally work with someone as small as a one-man shop who supports 10 computers all the way up to a multinational support organization with offices around the globe," Bissett explains.

    Marketing and sales
    N-able offers a number of training, marketing and sales support resources via its online partner Web portal. It also maintains a staff of solutions architects to assist partners with setting up the right technology solutions and maximizing the use of N-central.

    "We have eight people who are 100 percent dedicated to business training with our partner base, including structuring offerings and tailoring deployment to their customer bases," says Mike Ellis, N-able's manager of partner development. "Our technical-support side of the house includes not only a traditional help-desk function that partners can call into, but a specific team to help with training and advanced configuration issues."

    One key element for Microsoft partners, however, is that N-able announced in April that partners can try out a stripped-down hosted version of N-central, called N-central Express, for free for one year. The offer is limited to management of just 10 devices.

    The Last Word
    Although the exact depth of integration between N-central and System Center Essentials isn't yet hammered out, the underlying vision is clear-and Microsoft partners should keep an eye on its progress. Being able to leverage the depth of functionality within Essentials with the multi-site remote management capabilities of N-central promises to significantly ease the provision of real value-added services to your customers.

    "Just with N-central, we've reduced our server down time by 10 to one," D'Arcy says, adding that he manages 100 client sites with the software. "Our time to resolution is definitely better and we're able to prevent versus react now. That's a huge differentiator between us a year ago and today. And with Essentials that will only get better. It's a real game-changer."