System Builders Join Managed Services Fray

The Syracuse, N.Y.-based company will be reselling security and configuration management solutions from Big Fix, Emeryville, Calif., and also has assembled a VAR council to help it stay on top of revenue-rich trends for its partners, said Doug Phillips, senior director of emerging technologies at Seneca.

Managed services is a growing opportunity for solution providers. And a number of distributors, vendors and VARs already have started offering network monitoring and management, patch management, backup and security services remotely.

But Seneca, a $95 million company with a roster of about 200 active partners, is one of the first system builders to jump into this market. “We are looking at what we can bring to the table to add more value,” said Phillips, who has been working on the managed services deal for nearly a year. “Hardware is hardware these days. We need to create innovation for our customers and save them money.”

George Scheurer, a partner at Arete, a small solution provider in Florence, Mass., that sells Seneca&'s private label and Nexlink-branded systems, often with Arete custom applications installed, is particularly interested in reducing on-site maintenance. Arete services a wide area in the western Massachusetts and driving out to customer locations to install patches, bug fixes and upgrades can be costly, he said. “It would be nice to be able to do some of those fixes right from our office,” Scheurer said.

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Seneca recently started bundling the retail version of Big Fix&'s solution, which automatically looks up software patches and installs them. Within two months, Seneca plans to begin reselling the Big Fix enterprise solution, which automates the management of a variety of services, such as patch management, endpoint security, system configuration, compliance and network access control.

Phillips said VARs can buy the product and provide remote management services for customers, or they can install the software on-site so that larger customers can manage their own assets.

Seneca&'s next step will be to add an automated back-up service, Phillips said. He envisions a deal where solution providers can purchase a Seneca NAS and set it up to automatically back up to a third-party storage vault.

Seneca&'s VAR council, cemented this month, comprises 13 VARs with a variety of business models.

Steven Nichols, CFO of Xtreme Notebooks, Carson City, Nev., said Seneca is the only system builder he has worked with that has put together an advisory council. He hopes to help the builder of whitebooks innovate faster. Meanwhile, Scheurer, another council member, wants to explore co-op health insurance and participating in some first-level warranty services for his customers.