KACE today released a major upgrade to its KBOX 2000 Series appliance, the systems deployment partner to the company's KBOX 1000 Series systems management appliance.
New features on the KBOX 2000 Series include support for Microsoft Windows Vista deployment across networks, user migration capabilities, pre- and post-installation scripting, a Windows PE-based recovery console, and KACE's patent-pending K-image feature, an intelligent file-based imaging tool.
KACE isn't directly targeting MSPs with its line of KBOX automated IT management and deployment appliances. Nevertheless, CEO Rob Meinhardt believes solution providers servicing the SMB market ought to take a look at the Mountain View, Calif.-based vendor's product line as a complement to MSP software platforms or even as a direct alternative in a hardware-as-service model.
"We do compete on some level with the Kaseya-type characters out there," Meinhardt said. "But we don't focus primarily on the MSP market. We're more in competition with LANDesk, Altiris and so on."
Still, Meinhardt contends that KACE appliances can be easily incorporated into an MSP model.
"The KBOX fits into both roles -- as a hosted MSP product, non-premise, or behind somebody's firewall, on premise," he said.
Xtelesis, a Burlingame, Calif.-based managed mobile services and IP phone system provider, is an enthusiastic KACE channel partner.
"The biggest headaches our customers report is remediating virus signatures and patching software, said Randy Marcotte, vice president of sales and marketing at Xtelesis, which mostly services enterprises with up to 1,000 nodes. "Now we can deal with it with KACE's deploy and manage appliances."
KACE has built its channel program from just a handful of partners in late 2005 to some 25 listed on its Web site today. That's halfway to the company's goal of 50-plus.
In October 2005, KACE made a further pledge to eventually do business exclusively through the channel. It hasn't achieved that, but Meinhardt reiterated that it's still an ambition.
"Our goal is to take our business 100 percent direct through the channel," he said. "KACE fits into the channel very nicely. Our inside sales team is compensated to work with our channel partners. We won't take business direct when we have a partner in the region.
"They're selective about partners," said Perry Dearaway, vice president of sales at Verge Technologies, a KACE channel partner. "Some guys do a spray-and-pray approach and try to acquire as many partners as they can. But KACE has taken a more selective approach."
Verge Technologies, a provider of network security, products and services, has been a partner with KACE for about six months. The San Jose, Calif.-based VAR has found "very impressive stickiness" with the KACE line of products, Dearaway said.
"Probably eight out of 10 opportunities result in a sale," Dearaway said. "Particularly if a customer test drives the product."
Verge Technologies plans to offer one client a 55 percent annual savings with a switch to the KBOX suite from a competitor's product.
"We have a company out here in the Valley with about 14,000 seats. They're spending about $250,000 a year to support a competitor's product," Dearaway said. "We're talking about leasing [the KBOX suite] for $9,200 a month on a 36-month lease. They'd go from spending $250,000 a year to $114,000. That's $136,000 in savings a year."
Dearaway doesn't think the Vista deployment support on the new KBOX 2000 Series will immediately attract Verge customers.
"The enterprises I represent have a latent approach to Microsoft," he said. "They'll eventually migrate [to Vista], but for now they're taking a wait-and-see approach.
"Most enterprises will roll out MS product in phases. They want to see if it works first."
KACE lists the KBOX 2000 Series at a price of $12,900 for 100 nodes serviced. The KACE Partner Program provides discounts and other benefits based on the reseller's level in the program.
The upgraded appliance will be available for sale on April 27.