ConnectWise provides new details about unified product vision

A Web-based version of Automate, which will use the same interface as Manage, and has the same instance as the Automate thick client, is set for release at the ConnectWise IT Nation event in the fall.

Brett Cheloff, ConnectWise Automate’s General Manager

ORLANDO – At their Automation Nation event here – aimed at the users of the Automate Product which was known as LabTech before its rebranding last year – senior executives from ConnectWise provided more details than they had made public before about their vision of a unified product set.

“This is the first time we have made a really big announcement about this,” said Craig Fulton, ConnectWise’s Chief Product Officer. “And while we have talked about it before at other events, this is the first event where it has been heavily underway.”

A fully integrated suite of products is rapidly moving from a nice-to-have to a must-have, acknowledged Brett Cheloff, ConnectWise Automate’s General Manager.

”It has become critical because we live in a suite world,” Cheloff said. “People want one throat to choke for their vendor. They want to make sure that everything is in a product suite, because efficiencies get gained when these things come together. They don’t need to be the same code base, as long as they are well integrated. Because they aren’t the same code base, it opens up to being the best of breed. That’s why I believe the suite is the win.”

Fulton said that three separate components make up the vision. The first is a united interface for the computer screen. The other two are the monitoring dashboard and patch management.

“We expect that the single UI will be done by our IT Nation event in the fall,” Fulton said. “We expect to complete all the work within two years.”

“Considering that it has taken ConnectWise Manage 5-6 years to get to the Web and that it is still not completely there, two years for all the products is realistic,” Cheloff said. “We don’t want to break integrations. We are the tool that partners use to do the deployment, so we can’t let this create a hiccup.”

The pilot for the first stage – the single UI across the suite – is scheduled for August.

Fulton said that Manage and Automate are already substantially integrated – except for the interface.

“Every piece of data goes back and forth between them,” he noted. “We can intelligently route service tickets. Today though, there is still a separate window for Automate. We will really blur the lines and bring the screens together, and we will unveil that at IT Nation as well.”

Fulton indicated that the new Version 1 of Automate decouples the business logic from the front end, allowing the thin version of the product to go Web, and making that fully compatible with all of ConnectWise’s other products, which are Web based.

“It will look the same as the thick client, but everything won’t be there,” he said. “It will be just browsing to the device in version 1. This is the direction that will help bring our products together.

“Being web-based will put full power in the hands of the service desk without them having to leave where they are working,” Fulton said, to applause from the MSP audience. “Making sure we are all-Web makes us easier to consume, and easier to manage.”

So why roll out a stripped-down Web version of Web Automate rather than roll out the whole thing?

“We use the phased approach because we work in an agile methodology of software development, rather than a waterfall one,” Fulton said. “Doing it that way lets us be responsible to our partners’ needs, and by doing it this way, we can go faster.”

“It’s also the same instance, and not two separate clients,” Cheloff noted. “You still have the thick client, but also the element that is deployable in the instance. We will leave the thick client alone and get the other part in the Web, to allow the other products in the suite to benefit by it.”

A broader single sign-on functionality is a key part of the ConnectWise vision.

“Welcome to 2006 Craig,” Fulton joked on stage when he announced the functionality. He subsequently explained, however, that while the tech is not cutting edge, it now has very contemporary applications.

“Single sign on isn’t new, but what you can do with it is new,” he said. “You can now sign on to Facebook and log into ConnectWise with it, but we are going to make it so any SAML provider can single sign-on to ConnectWise — Active Directory, Google, any two factor authentication. You will just have to come to and log on, and you are in, without having to remember other passwords. That’s our vision.”

An automated networking mapping tool is next on the agenda. It’s in tech preview, and partners can sign up for it.

“The next thing that’s important to manage is the pipe – the network itself,” Fulton said, “We are working on creating an automated network mapping tool for Automate – although given our vision, everything we create here will eventually be able to be used in every one of our products.”

Automated network mapping for ConnectWise is presently provided by Auvik Networks, but ConnectWise is emphasizing that this isn’t designed to replace that, but rather to allow partners to do simple networking things.

“We want to be a stepping stone for products like Auvik,” Cheloff said. “We want to help our partners understand what the networks look like, but we wont do the deep level packet inspection or router configuration that a specialist like Auvik does. Today, however, with the network being so important now that everything goes to cloud, we know that every RMM needs some level of network management as well.”

Other enhancements include heuristics which will watch how you use the products, and make suggestions how you can be more effective.

“If, for instance, you are only using 20 per cent of Automate, it will tell you,” Fulton said. “You will be able to learn this inside your own instance, with in-app messaging.”

eCommerce, and automated integration, where you integrate new apps with a click, will be in the new release as well.

“The Web version of Automate into Manage has no big integration – just click and it’s in there,” Fulton said.

Fulton also stressed that as ConnectWise expands its ecosystem, it will remain an open platform.

“We have been accused of planning to expand the suite and then close it off,” he said. “We will leave it open. We still integrate to our competitors, like Kaseya, and will continue to do so. We want people to have choice. We will also make it easier to continue to attract companies, and will make it easier to get documentation and be integrated in.”