Ingram Micro Taps LPI Level Platforms For MSP Business


LPI made its name as a low-cost leader in the market for remote monitoring and management (RMM) software. It's flagship Managed Workplace MSP platform will now be the central RMM engine powering Ingram's ambitious new Seismic Platform and Virtual Services Warehouse offering, said Justin Crotty, vice president of services for Ingram's North American Services Division, Santa Ana, Calif.

Ingram officially announced the offering during its VentureTech Network (VTN) Fall Invitational event, which began today in Palm Desert, Calif.

The Ingram Micro Seismic Platform and Virtual Services Warehouse will become "a robust services offering that VARs can provision and deliver to their end-user customers," said Crotty.

Ingram sees its new offering as more than just an exclusive deal with LPI to resell Managed Workplace to its VAR partners as a hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS), said Crotty. To help partners succeed as MSPs, a comprehensive database of MSP best practices will also be part of the new program.

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Ingram plans to partner with other vendors over the next few years to add other hosted, resellable managed services such as anti-virus and spam filtering, remote storage backup and recovery, and e-mail messaging management, he said. The expansion of all these services will compliment Ingram's existing field IT services programs such as IMOnsite. Launched in August, IMOnsite is a hosted professional services automation (PSA) offering from Ingram delivered through an exclusive agreement with PSA vendor Autotask, Rensselaer, N.Y. IMOnsite gives solution providers a portal to help them locate and hire IT field service subcontractors from the 750 member-strong Ingram Micro Service Network.

Ingram spent nearly a year before deciding to go with LPI as its RMM tool of choice, said Peter Sandiford, CEO of LPI Level Platforms, Ottawa.

Ingram selected LPI over RMM products from N-able Technologies, Ottawa, and Silverback, Billerica, Mass. The distributor continues to sell the N-able and Silverback products, said Crotty. Ingram also passed over MSP Alvaka Networks in its selection of LPI, said Crotty. Since October 2005, Ingram has had a deal with MSP Alvaka Networks, Huntington Beach, Calif., to resell Alvaka's managed services as its own. But the Alvaka deal may not last much longer, and is currently being reviewed by Ingram, said Crotty. "In light of this new services strategy, we are going to reevaluate that agreement," he said.

A key attraction to LPI was the size of the vendor's install base, which is bigger than that of N-able's or Silverback's, said Crotty. LPI's relatively low prices were not the main reason Ingram tapped LPI as its RMM technology vendor, he said. LPI has given Ingram licensing discounts to enable the distributor to sell the service for about the same price as if a VAR were to buy the product direct from LPI, said Crotty. Ingram's decision to go with LPI was very much about LPI's low prices, a VTN partner told CRN on the condition of anonymity. The VTN partner, who is an N-able customer and took part in N-able's MSP business transformation course, applauded Ingram's decision to ramp up a comprehensive MSP offering that addresses more than just the need for an RMM point product. But he added that it was odd that Ingram would choose LPI over N-able because, unlike N-able, LPI has the reputation of being little more than a point product.

The reason Ingram chose not to go with Alvaka to provide its refreshed managed services offering is because the relationship between Ingram and Alvaka has not been very profitable, a source familiar with the deal said. Many MSPs are uncomfortable having a large, brand-named organization like Ingram "creating a shadow over the relationship between an MSP and their customers," the source said.

"One of the issues here is tech support," said Darren McBride, president of Sierra Computers, Reno, Nev., "If Ingram is in the middle of that, they better be able to support that product on a very detailed level."

"The whole reason Level Platforms was able to get a lot of market share away from N-able was that Level Platforms came in at a price point that has let resellers boot strap into managed services one customer at a time. They took the market away," said McBride. "I think there will be an audience for this, but it's been a very competitive market, so it will be interesting to see how N-able responds."

Gavin Garbutt, president and CEO of N-able, said that Ingram choosing a low cost RMM offering to move into managed services could spark an acceleration in the commoditization of managed services. To counter this commoditization, MSPs should act now to leverage their creativity and individuality, and focus more intently on value added services that larger players will have a difficult time replicating. "The big players are going to drive down margins," said Garbutt. "The more things commoditize, the more things look the same," and there's the opportunity for the smaller MSPs, he added.

Joe Popper, president of Computer Gallery, a solution provider and VTN partner in Palm Springs, Calif., said Ingram has been very heavy-handed about its choice to go with LPI, the way it has imposed exclusivity to the agreement with LPI, and the way it has put that exclusivity into practice.

Popper was planning to go to the VTN event in part to meet with his MSP platform vendor N-able, but N-able will not be there, he said. "[Ingram] un-invited N-able, and I heard they un-invited [Autotask rival] Connectwise," said Popper. "So I'm already going to this conference with an attitude," he said.

An Ingram spokesman said that because this week's VTN event is the backdrop for the announcement of Ingram Micro Seismic Platform and Virtual Services Warehouse, the exclusivity agreements with LPI and Autotask made it impossible for N-able and Connectwise to participate.

Arnie Bellini, president of Connectwise, Tampa, Fla., said Ingram told him that Connectwise's presence at the show would be a distraction. N-able's Garbutt said he received an e-mail from Ingram that caused N-able to change its plans for attending the VTN event.

Additonal reporting by Jennifer Lawinski