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ConnectWise Issues Open Invite To Competitors Datto, Kaseya, SolarWinds To Attend IT Nation Conference

ConnectWise has always talked about its open ecosystem, but is now putting its money where its mouth is by asking its top competitors to join its premier MSP conference, and hoping for reciprocal invitations in return.

ConnectWise Wednesday took its open platform strategy to a new level with a move to invite its top competitors to its IT Nation conferences.

The company also unveiled changes to the content of its IT Nation and Automation Nation conferences to better reflect the different types of attendees that go to each event.

ConnectWise, which provides technology aimed at helping managed service providers manage their businesses and customers, hopes competing platform vendors like Datto-Autotask, SolarWinds and Kaseya join its IT Nation conference as a way to broaden opportunities for partners, said Arnie Bellini, CEO of the Tampa, Fla.-based company.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: ConnectWise CEO Bellini On Co-Opetition With Datto, Better Integration Of Services, And Bringing Cloud To MSPs]

So far, Datto, which in October acquired Autotask to become ConnectWise's biggest competitor, has agreed to come to the IT Nation conference scheduled for April in London, Bellini told CRN.

However, Bellini said he wants more. "I'll be personally calling [Kaseya CEO] Fred Voccola to invite him to IT Nation," he said.

Datto was at last fall's IT Nation conference in Orlando, Fla. However, Datto's attendance was scheduled prior to its acquisition of Autotask.

The invite to ConnectWise's competitors to attend IT Nation is an extension of the company's commitment to providing an open platform for MSPs, Bellini said.

"We're focused on a concept of an open ecosystem," he said. "We've always had open APIs and an open platform. Now we want to open our events to anyone. It's like Microsoft going to Oracle OpenWorld, or Microsoft inviting Apple to a conference."

IT Nation was always billed as an open event, although maybe about five competitors were excluded, Bellini said.

"Now we're wide open," he said. "We want attendees to see all the solutions out there. We want everyone to mix and match offerings. It's all about choices. Everyone needs choices. And those choices include every one of our competitors."

Bellini said he hopes the competitors reciprocate the invite. He said ConnectWise plans to attend this year's DattoCon. However, he personally will not go because DattoCon is being held on the same dates as ConnectWise's Automation Nation in mid-June.

The opening of the ConnectWise IT Nation event is big news for MSPs, said Ryan Lakin, president of IronEdge Group, a San Antonio-based MSP and ConnectWise partner.

"I see this as part of the commitment Arnie [Bellini] makes to be open to the community," Lakin told CRN. "It's a bold move. It addresses rumors and gossip about what vendors can and can't go. And it addresses the question about whether Datto-Autotask can attend."

This won't be the first time competitors appeared at such conferences, Lakin said. He remembers ConnectWise attending a Kaseya event years ago.

The move comes as the management platform business potentially could break up into a few large camps, Lakin said. He cited last year's acquisition of Autotask by Datto, and January's acquisition of HTG by ConnectWise, as examples of how the industry could split.

"We're seeing two big camps," he said. "As they go down the road, they could move further apart, which isn't a good thing. It forces MSPs, many of whom work with multiple platform vendors, into different camps. Coming together is good for us."

ConnectWise Wednesday also said it is adjusting the focus of its IT Nation and Automation Nation conferences.

Going forward, Automation Nation will focus on the technical people in the industry, Bellini said. "These people are looking for hands-on labs and product training," he said. "We'll use Automation Nation to go deep with the technical people on our entire platform, and not just on the automation and management side."

IT Nation, on the other hand, will have some technology, but there will be more of a focus on the business aspect of MSPs, Bellini said. "It will be more for the management, sales and marketing people," he said.

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