Connectwise CEO on its 'most important release', why the MSP term is misunderstood, and why MSP tools vendors should stop fighting

Doug Woodburn
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Connectwise CEO on its 'most important release', why the MSP term is misunderstood, and why MSP tools vendors should stop fighting

Arnie Bellini talks to CRN at IT Nation

Connectwise CEO Arnie Bellini called for an end to in-fighting among MSP tools vendors as he talked up its new Unite offering as potentially his firm's "most important" release to date.

During an interview with CRN at Connectwise IT Nation in London, Bellini also opened up on why he thinks the notion of what constitutes ‘managed services' has to evolve.

The MSP tools space in which Connectwise plays is known for its in-fighting, with Bellini himself trading verbal blows with his opposite number at Kaseya last year. Kaseya and SolarWinds MSP have also exchanged barbs.

But Bellini (pictured) said he believes that all the MSPs tools vendors must now work together in order to stave off a possible invasion of their turf by a much larger vendor.

"There are always spats [in our space], but if you zoom out it makes no sense," he said. "Everyone can keep fighting if they want, and all of a sudden Microsoft and Oracle will own this space. It's a lucrative space, and we need to co-operate."

Bellini said he invited each of Connectwise's main competitors to IT Nation.

"All but one said yes," he said. "We have to integrate and connect, and each one of us offers something unique to the industry."

Any of Bellini's opposite numbers who attended IT Nation would have seen him unveil Unite, Connectwise's new cloud monitoring, management and billing solution that Bellini predicted may turn out to be its most significant release as more applications move off-site.

The platform currently integrates with various Microsoft, Cisco and AWS cloud products, and Bellini said it already has over one million Office 365 mailboxes under management following a pilot scheme.

Bellini claimed Unite will solve the issue of MSPs having to handle 10 different cloud application bills and visit 10 different cloud portals when managing their customers' increasingly sprawling cloud estates, adding that Connectwise had been working on the concept for five years.

"If you look at the future of technology and of Connectwise, it's an announcement of where the world is going and we are out there in front as a pioneer. It could end up being the most important release we've ever put out," he said.

For Bellini, the rise of cloud applications feeds into a wider point that the popular conception of what managed services constitutes has to evolve.

"I think the term is misunderstood," he said. "I would take the word ‘managed' and ‘service', break it apart, and say ‘now go and put anything you want in there'. Right now, what people call managed services is really managed onsite computing services. Well, that's just one component of tech. Onsite computing is just one square out of 15 and every one of those squares - physical security, data security, onsite computing, cloud computing etc - wants to be managed. The big one is managed security services - they broke ‘managed services' apart and put ‘security' in the middle."

In fact, it is security that will be the big trend that will shape the MSP market in 2018, Bellini said, adding that Connectwise's MSP partners are "all on the hook for security whether they know it or not".

He urged more MSPs to build out security practices.

"We've moved from a world in 1985 [when Connectwise started life as a local technology solution provider in Tampa Bay] where everything was largely on paper, to one where everything is digitised. That means you don't have to break into an insurance company physically to steal information," he said.

"We've had partners that have been asked to foot the bill for security breaches and their answer is ‘we don't do any security on your data'. The response that comes back from the client is, ‘well, you are my IT professional; I rely on you to get all this infrastructure in place and I just assume you've created security for me'.

"If there's a breach, it's you [the MSP] that gets the phone call. So you need to start building out a security practice and you need to start monetising and charging for that as well."

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