Equal Parts Aggression, Touchy-Feely-ness Out of Kaseya at Connect 2016

WEB EXCLUSIVE: New product enhancements and expansions announced at the conference take aim at Kaseya's competitors, even as CEO Fred Voccola promises collaboration.

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Attendees at the Kaseya Connect 2016 event this week could be forgiven for thinking that the one-time remote monitoring and management (RMM) specialist was declaring war on all the other vendors in the industry.

A short list of categories and vendors that crossed through Kaseya's sights during keynotes and presentations included:

  • RMM vendors, naturally, such as LabTech, SolarWinds N-able and LogicNow.

  • Professional services automation (PSA) vendors such as ConnectWise and Autotask, which Kaseya is challenging with its BMS offering, built around the acquired Vorex technology and released earlier this year.

  • Identity as a Service (IDaaS) vendors such as Okta and Duo Security Inc. with multi-factor authentication expansions and improvements of Kaseya's AuthAnvil product line.

  • Remote access technology companies, such as LogMeIn, due to a re-architecting of and re-emphasis on its Live Connect.

  • Backup solution providers like Veeam and StorageCraft as Kaseya prepares to expand its cloud backup offerings.

  • Office 365 migration vendors like BitTitan and SkyKick due to enhancements to the 365 Command product.

Nor are those moves the end of the current push. During his first keynote at a Kaseya Connect conference just eight months after taking over as CEO, Fred Voccola told a ballroom with about 400 of the 520 conference attendees on Tuesday that the company had $100 million available for acquisitions and R&D.

Asked in an interview where Kaseya is looking at potential acquisitions, Voccola said, "They're happening in sub-areas of security [and] network and systems monitoring." Those are areas that fit a recent Kaseya goal of "Times 20" opportunities -- products that an MSP can buy from Kaseya and that should bring in $20 of end customer revenues for an MSP for every $1 spent with Kaseya.

Voccola said the company is also looking at acquisitions and R&D that don't have a flashy return on investment for an MSP but help run the business -- think PSA-style products. On that side, Voccola said, "There will be some tuck-in acquisitions. There are some nice, little technologies out there that can really help MSPs and internal IT do things better. One of the problems we see in the market is PSA products don't always tie in perfectly with the QuickBooks of the world. That invoicing process sometimes gets messed up. Collections gets fouled up. Credit card processing doesn't always add up. That's a problem for MSPs. That's an easy area for us to fix."

"This sounds so cliché but it's true. We're a really competitive organization. So are our competitors. And that's a good thing. That benefits everybody."

Fred Voccola, CEO, Kaseya

The aggressive posture was only half the story, though. At the same time, Kaseya's messaging involved new declarations of increased openness to working with other vendors in the MSP space, and well-received efforts to smooth ruffled feathers among Kaseya's MSP customer base.

In his keynote, Voccola promised attendees to integrate in good faith with the other vendors that were important to their MSP businesses, even when Kaseya has a competitive product. "Kaseya will always remain an open company as long as I'm here," Voccola said.

Such head-spinning declarations are nothing new in the fast-moving and "frenemy"-filled MSP vendor space. Voccola expanded on his philosophy in the interview later in the week. "This sounds so cliché but it's true. We're a really competitive organization. So are our competitors. And that's a good thing. That benefits everybody," he said. "Not everyone wants to have one vendor, one platform for everything. A lot of people say, look, 'It's throwing all the eggs in one basket. That's kind of a risky thing to do.' I don't know if that's a right or wrong strategy, but we need to be able to serve everybody. We have x-thousand customers that are using other PSA products and we need to make sure that they're going to be successful."

Proving that openness was more than just words, Kaseya Chief Product Office Mike Puglia unveiled a PSA Connector, which was developed by Kaseya for bi-directional passing of information between Kaseya's VSA RMM product and the major PSA products from ConnectWise, Autotask and Tigerpaw. As a reminder, those are all direct competitors now to Kaseya's own BMS product, which has about 300 signed customers so far worldwide.

In addition to showing support for MSP customers by supporting the products those MSPs want to use, as opposed to the ones Kaseya really wants to sell, Voccola also planted several messages in his keynote to indicate his level of commitment to MSPs.

Voccola didn't mention it specifically but several of his lines appeared to walk back the previous management team's rebranding of Kaseya in 2014 as an "IT Management Cloud Company."

He displayed and read a new Kaseya mission statement that put MSPs, rather than midmarket IT departments, at the center of the mission: "We are 100% focused on developing World Class Software solutions for our MSP customers (and internal IT that acts as MSPs) to build managed service offerings to GROW & ACCELERATE your business" (emphasis Kaseya's).

Voccola also spent a fair amount of time taking the audience through government statistics establishing remarkable growth potential for managed services in spite of the maturity of that market.

While the previous management team also encouraged customers to move to cloud-based versions of Kaseya's products rather than installing on-premises versions, Voccola earned enthusiastic applause in his keynote by promising that "no longer are we saying you must go to the cloud."

Paul Cissel, CEO of Internet & Telephone, a Methuen, Mass.-based MSP and longtime Kaseya partner, was encouraged by the technology and business announcements, as well as management's tone toward MSPs, that he heard at the show.

Cissel was part of a small meeting of partners in Miami in November, during which he said Kaseya executives spent two days listening to their partners' advice. Many of the enhancements rolled out in Live Connect, AuthAnvil and in the new VSA 9.3 product, which was released on Tuesday, seemed to reflect that feedback.

"It wasn't technicians who did stuff in a dark room that they thought was cool," Cissel said. "They've shown us what they've done, and it's what we said we needed."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.