Datto Inc. showcased plenty of new products at its DattoCon conference in Denver this week, ranging from a completely re-architected cloud backup solution and fresh set of all-flash backup appliances to a Wi-Fi enabled power strip that channel pros can use to re-boot hardware at customer sites remotely.
Yet none of those newly-introduced offerings, most of which are shipping today or will ship soon, generated quite as much chatter among DattoCon attendees as a solution that Datto hasn’t even committed to making yet.
Demoed onstage during founder and CEO Austin McChord’s keynote address yesterday morning, it’s a virtual desktop infrastructure prototype called Datto Desktops that has the Norwalk, Conn.-based BDR vendor’s partners buzzing with interest.
“I thought it was the greatest thing in the world,” says Patrick Murphy, president of Lenexa, Kan.-based MSP and Datto partner RESULTS Technology of the experimental system.
Datto was merely toying with VDI when it gave conferencegoers an early look at Datto Desktops, which was developed by the company’s in-house R&D unit. But responses like Murphy’s, which were widespread at DattoCon, have McChord and his leadership team thinking far more seriously about jumping into a market set to grow at an over 11 percent CAGR through 2021, according to analyst firm Technavio.
“It’s super hot,” says McChord of the response to Datto Desktops, adding that the enthusiasm the system inspired among people who saw the demo caught him by surprise.
For DattoCon attendees, however, Datto Desktops represents a tantalizing opportunity to turn virtual desktops for SMBs into an affordable, practical option.
“VDI is like flying cars,” says Dave Seibert, CIO of IT Innovators Inc., a solution provider and MSP in Irvine, Calif. Vendors have been promising it, and channel pros have been dreaming about it, for years. But solutions from market leaders like Citrix Systems Inc. and VMware Inc. are complex, he contends, and more expensive than small businesses can afford.
Murphy’s company has always rejected VDI in the past for those same reasons.
“It was just too big and bulky, and it was never easy,” he says.
Datto’s embryonic VDI offering is a different story, though. Based on what little Murphy and others saw of it this week, the system appears to be simple enough for MSPs to deliver reliably and manage competently.
“It looks like it was easy to set up, easy to get going, easy to handle, [and] easy to fix,” Murphy says.
Better yet, from a Datto partner’s perspective, MSPs can manage the system through the same online management portal they already use to administer BDR deployments.
“That’s priceless,” observes Seibert.
Furthermore, while vendors with VDI products that small businesses can afford, such as dinCloud Inc. and Adar Inc., are still relatively unfamiliar names, Datto is a vendor that DattoCon attendees already know and trust.
For his part, McChord sees Datto Desktops as a possible way to deliver managed services profitably to the smallest of small businesses. According to census data, he says, there are approximately 170,000 companies in the U.S. with 50 to a few hundred employees, but 2 million organizations with fewer than 50.
“There’s just an enormous number of businesses that sit at that small end,” McChord notes, and only a portion of them have any kind of relationship with a channel pro at present.
“MSPs won’t service them,” he says. “It’s just not worth the truck rolls.”
VDI, though, eliminates that margin-sapping hassle.
“All the infrastructure’s in the cloud,” McChord observes. “There’s no need to roll a truck.”
Still, there’s a huge difference between demoing a VDI offering at a partner conference and running a reliable, cost-effective, production-grade system at scale. Datto has yet to do anything but present a compelling vision for virtual desktops so far. Based on the excitement it generated among its partners this week, however, it has every incentive to make bringing that vision to life a priority.