Microsoft, Level Platforms Team on Managed Services Software


Microsoft said Tuesday that it had inked a deal with managed service platform provider LPI Level Platforms, in which Level will integrate Microsoft's System Center Essentials 2007 software with Level's own managed services software.

This will enable MSPs to configure and access Microsoft System Center Essentials 2007 features through Level's central management dashboard.

Microsoft will still target its System Center Remote Operations Manager 2007 managed services offering for MSPs serving the midmarket. That offering also works in combination with Microsoft's System Center Essentials at the customer site.

But, for MSPs serving smaller businesses with fewer than a couple hundred seats, Microsoft decided to partner with Level Platforms, which already has a customer base of MSPs serving the low end of the market and which also supports multivendor environments.

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"Most solution providers providing managed services cover a wide range of technologies besides Microsoft so it's hard to base their whole business on them,," said Peter Sandiford, CEO of Ottawa-based Level Platforms. "It's a good product for the higher end of the market, for more sophisticated Microsoft providers who have deep Microsoft technology capabilities."

Level Platforms is hoping the integration will help it further differentiate itself in the competitive MSP platform provider market.

"We're building an integration layer so that if we bundled Essentials into a product or discovered it already installed it can see that and now get advanced features out of Essentials no one else can get," Sandiford said. "Some things it does for software deployment and monitoring are very sophisticated."

Although Level's agreement with Microsoft is not exclusive, it is the first such relationship Microsoft has made with an MSP platform provider.

VARs say the new partnership could have an impact on the SMB managed services market.

"LPI has always had a reputation of being a very easy to use and deploy; however, their solution has really been best suited for the smaller end of the SMB because of lack of the features and because of the flexibility that the mid-market demands," said Jeff Roback, CEO at Praxis, a solution provider in the Los Angeles area. "On the other hand, more feature-rich products such as Microsoft's MOM [Microsoft Operations Manager] have been too complex to present a good ROI in the managed services model where the VAR takes expense of building out and maintaining the solution. This has in effect made it very difficult to build a profitable model for managed services in the midmarket. If LPI is able to maintain their trademark ease-of-use and effectively leverage the advanced analysis capabilities of SCE... this could become a market-disruptive platform."

In 2008, Level will also over a version of its software bundled with Essentials.

--Additional reporting by Kevin McLaughlin.