Every fall, ChannelPro-SMB asks its readers and a panel of outside experts to name the SMB tech world’s most interesting and least appreciated vendors in a range of key product categories. And every year we receive more outstanding suggestions than we can possibly fit.
This year was no exception. Want a sneak peek at tomorrow’s superstar vendors today? Read on.
>> REMOTE MONITORING AND MANAGEMENT <<
The Internet of Things may still be more concept than reality for most companies at present, but U.K.-based CentraStage will be ready when it arrives. The company’s cloud-based RMM solution, which it claims can be installed in as little as 60 seconds, tracks not only PCs, servers, smartphones, and tablets, but pretty much any other gizmo you can connect to a network as well. Under CentraStage’s straightforward pricing scheme, buyers pay one flat monthly price for each of those devices, regardless of type or platform. www.centrastage.com
>> PROFESSIONAL SERVICES AUTOMATION <<
This San Francisco company’s software-as-a-service PSA solution is a good fit for channel pros who value flexibility. Partners can mix and match stand-alone modules for customer, project, ticket, and contract management, or deploy the entire platform as a comprehensive whole. Eiger Creative LLC, an MSP in Bristol, Conn., is using two modules now, but Richard Munger, company director, likes knowing that tacking on more is simple. “All components are integrated, which eases the prospect of adding services at a later date,” he says. So too does the low pricing, which starts at $5 per user per month for individual modules or $34 per user per month for the entire suite. www.affinitylive.com
The depth of this Plano, Texas, company’s ambition to be a serious contender in the PSA market became clear in September, when it announced the hiring of long-time managed services business coach Stuart Selbst as its new chief operating officer. The hosted solution Selbst now oversees has been carefully crafted for maximum simplicity, right down to the pricing model, which features one per-user, per-month rate for each of the product’s three editions, with no fees for setup, usage, or cancellation, and no data limits. There are also no long-term commitments to worry about, because all contracts are month to month. www.vorex.com.
>> CLOUD COMPUTING <<
Looking for a way to squeeze a little more margin out of Office 365 deals? Investing less time and overhead in deployment could be the answer. Arganteal, of Austin, Texas, makes a “deployment automation compiler” that streamlines every step of the Office 365 implementation process. According to satisfied users like Manny Lloyd, CEO and president of Wilmington, N.C.-based Manuel W. Lloyd Consulting, the results are rollouts that take hours rather than months. “That’s made me a significant amount of money,” Lloyd says. www.arganteal.com
Here’s another good way to boost your Office 365 earnings. This Bellevue, Wash., company’s flagship solution lets users of Office 365 (as well as the on-premises editions of Exchange and Outlook) share a common pool of contacts. Two additional offerings add functionality for collaboratively managing sales pipelines and customer interactions. Resellers receive 20 percent of user subscription fees in year one and 10 percent annually thereafter. While that isn’t likely to generate torrents of extra income given the modest prices Attached Apps charges, all three systems are easy add-on sales that can give a small but welcome boost to otherwise meager contracts. www.attachedapps.com
CloudFounders, Gridstore Inc., and Scale Computing
All three of these companies make private cloud-in-a-box solutions that combine networking, storage, and virtualization in a single, seamless package, and all three sell exclusively through the channel. That, however, is where their similarities end.
Indianapolis-based Scale Computing’s product, called HC3, comes with proprietary hardware running a Linux-based operating system. Both CloudFrames vRun, from Belgian-based cloud computing vendor CloudFounders, and Gridstore, from Mountain View, Calif.-based Gridstore, are entirely software-defined solutions that run on commodity x86 server hardware.
Each solution uses a different hypervisor too. Scale’s product runs on the open source KVM hypervisor, while for now at least the CloudFounders solution supports only VMware ESX, and Gridstore’s system supports only Microsoft Hyper-V.
Ray Lucchesi, president of Silverton Consulting Inc., a storage advisory firm in Broomfield, Colo., admires the gumption of Gridstore’s Microsoft-oriented hypervisor strategy. Private cloud and converged infrastructure vendors typically focus on market leader VMware’s platform initially and add Hyper-V support later, if at all. “By taking on Hyper-V first they arguably have a harder market to break into because Windows Storage Server is already a dominant player in this space,” Lucchesi says. www.cloudframesvrun.com, www.gridstore.com, www.scalecomputing.com
Most project management applications were originally designed with PCs in mind. Bellevue, Wash.-based Smartsheet.com’s solution, by contrast, was engineered from the ground up for mobile touchscreen computing, so it’s extremely simple to learn and use, according to Christopher Chute, a research vice president in the Global SMB Cloud & Mobility Research Practice at analyst firm IDC. “They are using the cloud and simple mobile front ends to make project management easier to deploy for line-of-business users who do not have a background in IT,” Chute says. www.smartsheet.com
If you still have customers running Windows Server 2003 and Small Business Server 2003, U.K.-based Zynstra is a name worth knowing, as support for both Microsoft products ends next June, and Zynstra’s cloud-managed SMB server appliance makes a nice upgrade option. Equipped with everything you need to run a complete hybrid cloud infrastructure, the system wasn’t available yet in North America as of press time, but Zynstra plans to begin selling on these shores very shortly. www.zynstra.com