Q&A: AVG’s RMM Ambitions

Mike Foreman, general manager, SMB, AVG Technologies

Mike Foreman, general manager, SMB, AVG Technologies

The managed services land grab kicked into high gear with last week’s announcement that security vendor AVG Technologies plans to purchase Ottawa-based remote monitoring and management vendor Level Platforms.

Channelnomics caught up with Mike Foreman, general manager for SMB at AVG, to talk about the deal, and about AVG’s aspirations as an IT management company.

Channelnomics: Why Level Platforms in particular, and why the RMM space in general?

Mike Foreman: Last year, with AVG CloudCare, we set out on a mission, really, a vision and a journey to simplify IT management. CloudCare was launched with anti‑virus, anti‑spam, content filtering. Basically, desktop technology. The product’s evolving pretty rapidly.

We started looking at the RMM space. And then we started thinking “These things are going to come together”. It really makes sense to manage networks, manage the devices, manage the security aspects, and the add‑ons from one simplified platform.

So we went looking for what’s in the markets, either to partner with or purchase. We looked around, and Level Platforms, with their Managed Workplace products, really made sense. Those guys have the same focus as we do into the small business space.

They have a great technical product. It wins a lot of awards. It’s built in the same way we build stuff, so the technology of their product stacks with how we how we started building CloudCare, so from an engineering point of view, it’s really not a case of one product or the other. We really will bring these two platforms together over time, and ultimately create one great, security‑driven remote managed platform.

Part of CloudCare, what it has that is really unique in this space, is a billing engine, so you can self‑invoice. You can add‑on and remove components with the flick of a switch. You can deploy anti‑virus to certain machines; a pay‑as‑you‑go model. This is really going to be a bit of a kick‑start to the RMM industry of how managed services will start to look in the future, what we’ve started building. We can add this simplicity to this environment and really let the resellers have the full control of functionality that no other vendor has.

Look at that, and then also look at where CloudCare was going, or is going. We’re moving the SMB business to the cloud. We have a recurring revenue model. The LPI business is all about cloud and recurring revenue, as well. Other vendors in the RMM industry have the old perpetual license model. As we’re seeing in recent activity, that model’s dead. That’s not the future anymore.

These guys in LPI really have got their thinking caps on early on, and doing business, ready for the future. The model fits, they’ve got a market approach that is really aligned with AVG’s – that’s channel, local support, good quality support for the reseller channel, sales in country. And then we’ve got a global distribution network, so we can take this and really scale it up globally to our other locations.

CN: Many of your peers who enter this from a security vendor viewpoint have come in with a more RMM-agnostic view, “We’ll integrate with everyone.” Is it simply because o the success you’ve had with the CloudCare model over the last year that investing in your own RMM stack makes sense?

MF: We’re definitely seeing success with the take‑up of CloudCare. We’re also seeing they want that single plane of glass, that one invoice, that one platform to work from. Every reseller who’s in the service space needs to have a RM platform, and every one of their customers have to have at least anti‑virus and some form of backup These are products that are going to be needed by the reseller, so we feel it makes sense to bring them together, and converge them.

We will provide the ecosystem, through Level Platforms’ service center modules, to support other anti‑virus products and other third‑party products. We are definitely going to keep that, because we believe in giving a choice to the reseller. More importantly, this should not disrupt any of our customers. If our customers now, our LPI customers, do not want to use my anti‑virus product, I’m not going to force them to. We definitely will support the third‑parties’ ecosystem, but also offer our own built‑in versions.

CN: Most of your peers in the security space have been writing integrations to LPI up to this point. Do you have any idea at this point whether that development continues, or if they’re going to be a little more cautious about it now that LPI is in the hands of a competitor?

MF: We have the event next week, and [Level CEO] Peter [Sandiford] is working through that now. Next week we’re all going to be at the LPI event summit in Las Vegas, where we will talk to these vendors face‑to‑face and give another reassurance that they can plug into this platform. I guess naturally, there will be some hesitancy from them. But ultimately, they’re a shared customer and I’m not going to go and disadvantage my customer, and hopefully, they’re not going to cut their nose off to spite their face on a mutually shared customer.

CN: It is fortuitous timing that you’ve got the first Level Platforms get-together of this kind of scale coming less than a week after this deal is announced. What’s the message for partners at the event?

MF: It’s great timing. I really think the message is, to those resellers, “It’s business as usual.” When you look at our go‑to‑market route for channel ‑ most of LPI’s business is North American ‑ we have a North American channel business based out of North Carolina in Charlotte. It is about real people supporting real channels.

So the message really is, AVG is a big company. We’re a New York Stock Exchange-floated company, a billion‑dollar company with great power to reinvest and take stuff globally. But we’re not going to suddenly come in and go, ‘You guys are too small.'” We have a similar business, already in the channel. It really is going to be business as usual, no disruption to the reseller, and hopefully they’ll see some of the technology we bring from CloudCare really will simplify parts of their lives.

A lot of automation we want to bring for billing, deployment and activation of new services. It’s simple one‑click activation in CloudCare.

So there’s a lot of good stuff for the reseller we believe will excite them, but in the meantime, reassure them that it is business as usual. Nobody’s going to force you to take AVG anti‑virus.

That’s a key message we’ll be telling them. “Yes, AVG owns it, but it isn’t going to be a requirement to take our anti‑virus. It’ll be preferred, and I’d love you to take it, but we’re not going to bend you over a barrel and make you take the products.”

In part two of Channelnomics’ conversation with Foreman, to be published Wednesday morning, we’ll discuss the roadmap for bringing Managed Workplace and CloudCare together, and the company’s case for having a well-known brand name behind an MSP’s core tools.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at ChannelBuzz.ca. He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997.