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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 1:43 PM0 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


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


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


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


ESW Capital Buys RoseASP

Microsoft Dynamics hosting pioneer Linda Rose is retiring from day-to-day operations after the sale of San Diego-based RoseASP Inc. to ESW Capital LLC.

Founded in 2000, RoseASP provides hosted Dynamics services, including Dynamics AX, GP, NAV, SL and CRM.

Austin, Texas-based ESW specializes in acquiring and growing mature software companies. RoseASP is one of four companies ESW bought on April 17, according to ESW's Web site. Among the 54 acquisitions ESW listed since 2006 are Kerio Technologies, Wave Systems and GFI.

Michael Bone will run RoseASP with the title of chief revenue officer, the company said this week. Bone was most recently CRO at CyberLinkASP, another ESW company, according to his LinkedIn profile. Rose is stepping down from her CEO job and moving into a management advisory role.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 03, 2017 at 12:38 PM0 comments


Singh Takes on CEO Role at Docker

Docker, the fast-growing, 4-year-old, flagship company of the open source container trend, is replacing its CEO with the seasoned technology executive who was already serving as its chairman for the last six months.

Steve Singh was named Tuesday as the CEO, adding the title to the chairman role he assumed in November. Singh was the founder and CEO of Concur, and later served in senior management roles and as an executive board member at SAP after the business software giant acquired Concur in 2014 for $8.3 billion.

He replaces Docker CEO Ben Golub, who moves to a director role on the board. Golub noted in a blog post about the transition that he joined the company in April 2013 when it consisted of 15 employees and the project had 10 contributors. Now, he said, the company consists of 330 people, the project has 3,300 contributors, and Docker has developer and server counts in the millions and a "dockerized" app count of 900,000. Over the last 18 months, that app count has been increasingly including containers on Microsoft Azure and on Windows Server 2016 due to a deep partnership between Docker and Microsoft.

"I believe that Docker, backed by its platform and fueled by innovation from its collaborative ecosystem, is on track to be the next great enterprise software company."

Steve Singh, chairman and now CEO of Docker

Golub did not specifically say why he was stepping down, although the implication in his blog and in an official news release about the change was that Singh has the experience and skills to help the company strengthen its partner base, increase its enterprise footprint, drive revenues and build an enduring company.

"While there is always some uncertainty about changing roles, I am 100% certain that Steve is the right person for Docker," Golub wrote.

Docker Founder and CTO Solomon Hykes credited Golub for much of Docker's growth over the past four years. "Without Ben, Docker wouldn't be in such an incredible position as a platform and as a company," Hykes said in a statement. Of Singh, Hykes said, "With Steve's unique expertise, we will build an organization capable of delivering on that demand, and serving our customers across the globe."

Singh himself expressed bold ambitions for the company in a prepared comment: "I believe that Docker, backed by its platform and fueled by innovation from its collaborative ecosystem, is on track to be the next great enterprise software company."

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 02, 2017 at 3:18 PM0 comments


Executive Moves at AvePoint, Intermedia, Datto, Teamatics

Several technology companies unveiled new hires and promotions associated with strategic moves on Tuesday.

AvePoint
AvePoint, which provides tools for migrating, managing and protecting Office 365 and SharePoint data, updated a raft of senior executive roles on Tuesday.

The Jersey City, N.J.-based company brought on a new chief revenue officer, Christopher Larsen, and a new chief financial officer, Anthony Branca. Larsen previously held a similar role at software company Model N and has also held senior positions at SAP, TIBCO and Infragistics. Branca came from AppNexus and has worked at ICON Investments Corp. and KPMG.

In other moves, AvePoint promoted Dux Raymond Sy to chief marketing officer and public sector chief technology officer Wei Chen to chief service delivery officer, Mario Carvajal to chief technology officer of North America, and Tom Lin to corporate vice president of sales.

Intermedia
Intermedia, which bundles cloud business applications and serves as an Indirect Provider for partners in the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, is bringing on a marketing executive with 16 years of experience at Polycom Inc.

Jim Kruger will start as chief marketing officer and executive vice president overseeing Intermedia's global marketing on May 15. In addition to his experience running a marketing operation of 160 people and a $60 million budget, Intermedia is looking for Kruger's market sector expertise as it works to expand the Intermedia Cloud Voice business.

Datto
In a nod to the importance of open source projects to its business and the industry, data protection solution provider Datto Inc. hired Markus Rex as an open source industry expert.

Rex will help oversee Datto's open source initiatives, including the use of the open source ZFS operating system, which is part of Datto's Inverse Chain technology used by managed service providers for backup and restore capabilities.

Rex was most recently co-founder and CEO of ownCloud, an open source file sync and share platform. He is also a past CTO of the Linux Foundation and has held senior management positions at Novell and SUSE.

Teamatics
Jamison West, a high-profile Microsoft partner executive and managed service provider who founded Jamison West Consulting Services, renamed it Arterian and then sold the Seattle-based business last year to Houston-based Aldridge, now has a new venture.

After leaving both Aldridge and Seattle for Las Vegas, West on Tuesday launched an HR-focused software company called Teamatics LLC. The company bills itself as a platform for developing human capital and improving team performance.

Posted by Scott Bekker on May 02, 2017 at 9:55 AM0 comments