N-able’s roadmap: Mobility now, cloud later

Robert Grapes N-able

N-able director of product management and marketing Robert Grapes

If Robert Grapes could get one feature into N-able’s N-central remote management platform, it would be mobile device support.

Fortunately, as director of product management and marketing at N-able, Grapes is in a unique position to make that wish come true. And in fact, managing remote devices is one of the biggest items on the 2012 roadmap from the Ottawa-based RMM-tool vendor.

To be clear – that’s not accessing the N-central console via mobile devices. The company has long allowed the ability to do that on the iOS platform and has recently launched an Android client too. Rather, the focus at N-able is on being able to manage those same mobile devices.

And in the locked-down vs. open world of mobile device platforms, it may be a surprise which platform is the easiest to work with from a remote management perspective.

In fact, it’s Apple’s iOS, legendary for its locked-down, sandboxed and untouchable approach, that’s proving the easiest to build mobile management for. The reason – while Apple is keeping people out of the lower levels of the operating system themselves, it’s providing the hooks developers need to enable the functionality. Grapes said that the iOS Configuration Utility offered by Apple “really opens up the door for us do [management] functionality in a single pane of glass.” So when it comes to the development of remote device management, which N-able is building in-house, iOS is in the lead.

“Android is a much more open platform, but the APIs and SDKs just don’t exist, yet,” he said.

While it’s a little further out – probably towards the end of 2012, Grapes also provided a preview of the company’s plans to embrace cloud management through N-central. The intention, he said, is to support Infrastructure-as-a-Service deployments, give the ability to spin up servers through the N-central console, and more.

“Our partners are being courted by the cloud providers, and we want to make sure they retain their status in the ‘last mile’ of cloud-based solutions.”

While there are still big goals on the roadmap, N-able is changing up its strategy when it comes to major releases of N-central next year. It’s opting to go with two big releases instead of quarterly launches, with Grapes referring to “lots of little features sprinkled in along the way,” a reference to CEO Gavin Garbutt’s goal of adding 50 new features in 50 weeks to help MSP technicians automate at a much higher level.

That all goes with a new drag-and-drop environment that promises to make its management tools easier to use as it turns its attention from what has been its historical focuses on managing and monitoring towards the overall growth of increasing MSP automation.