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In-Depth

AVG Lays Out Roadmap for MSP Products, Intros IDaaS Offering

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Plans emerge during the security software firm's first partner event since acquiring RMM leader Level Platforms.

AVG Technologies this week provided a detailed technology roadmap for its channel-centric SMB business, which became a major focus for the onetime consumer anti-virus company in October 2012 and got more important with the acquisition of remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool vendor Level Platforms in June 2013.

That roadmap includes new functionality in a major release of the former Level Platforms Managed Workplace RMM, set to ship in the coming weeks; tighter integration with the company's existing security-focused MSP suite, called CloudCare; and a strategic partnership with Centrify Corp. that brings secure sign-on for 2,500 cloud apps to the combined SMB offering.

In a keynote at AVG's first summit for partners since the Level Platforms acquisition, CEO Gary Kovacs made clear that the company's focus remains primarily on security. "I joined a year ago and the No. 1 priority I set is that we have got to make a clear focus on becoming the online security company -- software and services across devices and people," Kovacs said during a keynote Tuesday at the AVG Cloud Summit near Phoenix.

Kovacs said the company, which generated about $400 million in revenues in 2013 and is at a slightly slower pace on revenues this year due to its exit from the third-party toolbar business, is putting equal focus on consumers and business.

Paying 'Technical Debt' on Managed Workplace
While the security focus of the company explains the new Centrify partnership, Kovacs also promised ongoing heavy technology investments in the Managed Workplace offering, a product which, like RMM offerings from other vendors, goes well beyond security in its capabilities.

"I joined a year ago and the No. 1 priority I set is that we have got to make a clear focus on becoming the online security company -- software and services across devices and people."

Gary Kovacs, CEO, AVG Technologies

Kovacs told the several hundred partners in attendance that AVG is hearing their feedback on needed features and the forthcoming 9.0 release of Managed Workplace will bring many improvements in efficiency, patch management, automation and other areas. "We're not going to get there in one rev," Kovacs said. The 9.0 release, he said, "paid off some technical debt."

David Haadsma, vice president of product management, gave about 200 attendee partners details of the AVG Managed Workplace 9.0 release, including an early November release date for the product. He described six key areas of improvement, ordered by AVG's perception of their priority to partners:

  1. Automation enhancements include playlist-like scheduling of automation packages and scripts with a new user interface and an at-a-glance calendar. AVG has built out a cross-platform library of automation packages and scripts and included a new script editor. The platform now has the ability to more easily chain scripts and set dependencies.

  2. Lost monitoring protocol alerts will help ensure the integrity of the monitoring system in case of the loss of WMI or SNMP.

  3. Patching schedule enhancements now allow for on-demand or granular setting of patching schedules.

  4. Remote Control is being approved with Network Layer Authentication security capability and improved connection reliability. "RDP had some security weaknesses. We're a security company, it's in our DNA to improve the security," Haadsma explained.

  5. The Report Builder is updated with more options for creating customized or canned reports with access to more types of data and graphical display options.

  6. Selective device management gives MSPs more control over whether a customer device is managed or excluded.

Another feature update, not necessarily requested by partners, is integration with the AVG Antivirus Service. However, Haadsma was quick to clarify that the Managed Workplace Open Ecosystem Service Module will continue to provide APIs for third-party products, including anti-virus competitors. "That's the real world," Haadsma said. "We're going to honor that."

The service module API has been the delivery method for AVG support of some major products in the last few months, including Office 365 and Hyper-V,  and the company previewed a VMware Service Module at its summit.

"It completes our package of Hyper-V in the summer and VMware [now], giving you a lot more flexibility in a virtual environment," Haadsma said.

Although AVG came from the cloud side and called the partner event the AVG Cloud Summit, Haadsma also said in an interview that the company will continue to develop and support on-premises implementations of the Managed Workplace product. "We don't have any current plans to change the on-prem. Some guys want it," Haadsma said.

Putting HTML5 in CloudCare
AVG's 2-year-old CloudCare -- which includes anti-virus, content filtering, remote control, anti-spam and encryption -- is also coming in for updates this quarter. A 3.2 hotfix will bring remote control improvements and a 3.3 version currently in beta has the headline feature of replacing the Flash-based interface with HTML5.

"The HTML5 interface [is] very important for cross-platform compatibility and mobile devices and moving into the future," Haadsma said. "It's a much cleaner look for all your customers. It's not just HTML5, it's much improved usability."

In another major move that most directly affects CloudCare immediately but will be important across all of the company's cloud products is a back-end switch of infrastructure by AVG to Amazon Web Services (AWS) Inc.

"What we're going to do is leverage the power we can get from AWS," said Mike Foreman, general manager of AVG's SMB business. Foreman said the move will enable AVG to provide local services more quickly to international partners. The engineering team is starting the work of chopping AVG applications into smaller pieces that will work more efficiently on AWS.

AVG CloudCare SSO
One of AVG's biggest announcements involved the partnership with Centrify to provide identity as a service (IDaaS). AVG will enable partners to resell Centrify technology under the AVG CloudCare SSO brand, which will overlay other AVG products as the secure sign-on layer.

"This is a new multi-factor authenticated secure gateway to the entire AVG suite of services," Haadsma said.

According to the companies, Centrify's technology integrates multi-factor authentication, secure sign-on, mobile device management and mobile application management, and manages it all through Microsoft Active Directory.

A key benefit of the Centrify product as sold by AVG partners will be the ability for end users to be credentialed via a single Active Directory login for up to 2,500 available cloud apps, with a method for users and companies to add other apps. A screenshot displayed at the conference showed AVG branding, which partners will able to white-label to promote their own brand or to use a customer's brand, on a splash page of apps that included AVG CloudCare, AVG Managed Workplace, ADP Portal User Login, Autotask, Axcient, Basecamp Launchpad, ConnectWise, LinkedIn, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, My Adobe, QuickBooks Online, Salesforce.com and Twitter.

"This is a way to put you back in control of the data that your customer already assumes that you are in control of," Foreman said.

Centrify sells its technology in the Fortune 5000 and in government, said Haadsma. AVG's value is to wrapper the product effectively with partner portals and appropriate bundling to enable the channel to bring the technology to SMBs, he said.

"We have almost no SMB customers," confirmed Ben Rice, senior director of business development at Centrify, during a Wednesday keynote. "One of the reasons we thought this would be such a powerful partnership is the combination of RMM, CloudCare and [unified identity management] is unique in the industry."

"What we're going to do is leverage the power we can get from AWS."

Mike Foreman, General Manager, SMB, AVG Technologies

Haadsma made clear how AVG is looking to the channel to drive sales. "We don't think this works well at the SMB level without you guys. You guys get it. I don't think the average SMB will ever get it. You guys know how to do it, and you get the whole concept. You aren't going to have a lot of cloud apps that aren't secure anymore," Haadsma said.

AVG CloudCare SSO will be available as a free not-for-resale (NFR) offering for partners to use internally starting in December. It will be available for sales to customers starting in the first quarter of 2015.

Further Out
Haadsma described a number of technologies that AVG is building into future products that aren't yet pegged to specific products, modules or release dates. They included more remote control improvements, app monitoring, additional HTML5 throughout the product stack, custom alerting, integrated third-party patching, additional cloud service modules, mobile Android anti-virus, mobile remote control and remediation and embedded credential management.

Technological advancement will continue to come from all three sources AVG has used over the last two years. "We will keep investing in a cloud and mobile partner platform through development, partnerships and acquisition," Haadsma said.

Partners at the AVG Cloud Summit reacted very positively to the Centrify technology, especially when Centrify's Rice announced the free NFR rights.

Steven Banks, president of Banks Consulting Northwest Inc. in the Seattle area, called the functionality "interesting" and a positive development for AVG partners like him in light of the recent acquisition of Scorpion Software by Kaseya in August. Scorpion sold a two-factor authentication, single-sign-on and password management toolset with a solid MSP customer base. Although Kaseya has committed to continuing to support open APIs to allow competitive use of the product, AVG now has its own offering.

Banks was also impressed by some of the work AVG has done cleaning up its remote desktop technology and appreciates AVG's lightweight capabilities around patching.

David Babcock, president of Compu-Fix Inc. in the Pittsburgh area and a longtime Level Platforms partner, said he was glad to hear about the plans to continue support for on-premises versions of Managed Workplace.

Support for legacy and third-party products was also on Banks' mind when it came to his anti-virus partner of choice, Trend Micro. "I like the fact that they're leaving it open on AV [in Managed Workplace]," Banks said. "They're not trying to close these guys out."